Prof. Aren Maeir says, “The news is out! A large stone altar in Area D” at Tel es-Safi/Gath. The unusual altar measures 50 x 50 x 100 cm. For ametric [new word] Americans that is 19.69 x 19.69 x 39.37 inches.
Read more at the Tell es-Safi/Gath blog here.
Prof. Aren Maeir with the two-horned altar at Gath. Photo courtesty of A. Maeir.
The info below is a brief summary of the brief summary from Maeir’s post. There are several high-resolution photos, including the one we have used here, with his post.
Maeir says this is the earliest altar found from Philistia. Remember that Gath is one of the cities of ancient Philistia (1 Samuel 6:17). The altar, made of one block of stone, is one of the largest found in Israel after the one at Beersheba (made of many pieces), and another found out of context at Ekron.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this altar is that it has two horns instead of four. Maeir says,
This is VERY interesting, since this may very well confirm a theory put forward by our team member Louise Hitchcock that there is a connection between the Minoan/Cypriote “Horns of Consecration” and the horned altars – perhaps brought by the Philistines.
The dimensions of the altar are identical in proportion to the altar in the biblical tabernacle (1 x 1 x 2 cubit) (Exodus 30:2).
The back part of the altar may have been built into a structure behind it.
There is no evidence of burning on the altar.
Read more at the Tell es-Safi/Gath blog here. Other photos at the Foundation Stone web site here. Maeir will be on the LandMinds radio show Wednesday.
HT: Joseph I. Lauer
There is some discussion over at the Tel es-Safi/Gath site about the correct identification of the photo from 1969 which I identified as Gath here.
Based on my recollection of the location of the tel, I think those who have identified it as Tel Erani are correct. Here is a comment I have left on the Tel es-Safi/Gath page.
Sorry to be the center of a controversy. I think this photo was made very near Qiryat Gat. I have only been in this area a few times and was having a hard time identifying this tel with the photos of Tell es-Safi. Todd is probably correct in saying this was still the identification given by a guide back in 1969.
I am away from home for a couple of days but what I have been able to locate on the Internet indicates that the photo is of Tel Erani.
My recollection is that this tel is on the north side of the road leading from Bet Guvrin and Lachish to Ashkelon.
My plans are to be back in Israel in a month, but I won’t have the opportunity to check these places. Maybe later in the year!
Prof. Aren Maeir, director of the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project, asked permission to post my 1969 photo of the tell which we posted here. I was honored to do so. He has given us some directional info that I overlooked. He says that it is “of the northeastern portion” of the tell. He comments on the changes that have taken place since 1969.
Not only is the foto very nice, it is very interesting, since there are quite a few changes that can be seen on the tell since then. In particular, the intense 4X4 vehicle activity has taken a toll on the site, and a current view shows various parts that have been eroded away.
Maeir’s post includes a recent photo showing the northeastern part of the tell from another angle. Take a look here.
Back in 2005, I think, a pottery shard, inscribed with the Semitic letters AWLT and WLT, was found. Maeir says,
BOTH names that appear on the sherd (AWLT and WLT…) are etymologically very close to Goliath. All are quite similar to Indo-European, names such as Lydian Wylattes/Aylattes, which in the past have been etymologically compared to Goliath (way before this find).
I can’t resist posting a tiny photo here.
There is a wonderful high resolution photo of the shard online with other information. Read here.
The excavation at Tell es-Safi/Gath this year will be July 6-August 1. Click here for some information about the dig if you have interest. This site, near the valley of Elah, provides a wonderful background for the conflict between the Philistines and the Israelites, between David and Goliath.
Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. (1 Samuel 17:4)
Jim West has published a letter from Robert Deutsch and a page from a published book by Deutsch and Lemaire, Biblical Period Personal Seals in the Shlomo Moussaieff Collection, showing a seal that “probably belonged to the father of Rapayahu from Jerusalem.”
Read the entire letter and see the seal here.
Aren Maeir also notes a Tell es-Safi/Gath connection with the Rephaim here. He says,
Notice the name Rapaihu – basically it means the Rapa of Yahu. How does that connect to Gath and Safi?
Well, here it is: In the late 9th century BCE, Stratum A3, at Tell es-Safi/Gath (the level which we believe was destroyed by Hazael of Aram, a short 3-4 letter post-firing, incised inscription (as yet not fully published), was found on the body of storage jar, which has preliminarily been read as rpa’. This reading is reminiscent of the connection in the biblical narrative between the Rephaim and the Philistines in general, and the association of the enigmatic yldy hrph (roughly, “the offsprings of the rph) to several figures originating from the city of Gath (e.g., II Sam 21: 16-22).
Here is a photo I made of the tell of Gath in 1969 before the area was cluttered with power lines.
The Philistine city of Gath provides us with the memorable statement of David when he mourned for Saul and Jonathan.
“Tell it not in Gath, Proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, Or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice, The daughters of the uncircumcised will exult” (2 Samuel 1:20 NASB).