Tag Archives: Lachish

Post-traumatic stress as early as 1300 B.C.

A team of scholars at Anglia Ruskin University in the East of England released a report showing evidence of post-traumatic stress as early as 1300 B.C. The study involved documents from ancient Mesopotamia.

Accounts of soldiers being visited by “ghosts they faced in battle” fitted with a modern diagnosis of PTSD.

The condition was likely to be as old as human civilisation, the researchers concluded.

Prof Jamie Hacker Hughes, a former consultant clinical psychologist for the Ministry of Defence, said the first description of PTSD was often accredited to the Greek historian Herodotus.

The brief notice is available at BBC here. I found it interesting that the photo associated with the article shows an Assyrian king of the 9th century B.C. with a bow and arrow, and two others with javelins. In fact, this is not a war or battle relief. A view of the entire relief shows that it was the king is on a lion hunt. But, that has nothing to do with the validity of the report.

Several examples of the cruelty of war in ancient times is the limestone relief of the siege of Lachish which was found in Sennacherib’s (704-681 B.C.) palace at Nineveh. A replica of the relief may be seen in the Israel Museum, but the original is in its own designated room in the British Museum.

An Assyrian warrior kills one of the locals at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An Assyrian warrior kills one of the locals at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Bible mentions the siege of Lachish in several places, including 2 Chronicles 32:9-10.

After this, Sennacherib king of Assyria, who was besieging Lachish with all his forces, sent his servants to Jerusalem to Hezekiah king of Judah and to all the people of Judah who were in Jerusalem, saying, “Thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria, ‘On what are you trusting, that you endure the siege in Jerusalem? (ESV)

Counting the heads of the dead at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Counting the heads of the dead at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Some scholars suggest that the next panel portrays the Assyrians flaying the Judeans.

Bodies of the dead at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Bodies of the dead at Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

One panel shows local citizens being impaled on poles. After a day of impaling, beheading, or counting heads, it might be easy enough to see “ghosts”.

We can desire that all men come to accept the teaching of Jesus when one of His disciples used a sword to advance the cause of the Lord.

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52 ESV)

HT: Agade list

When is a gate not a gate? Rethinking the Lachish discovery

Last Monday, following material posted by Luke Chandler, I posted a blog here with this heading: “Have new gates been discovered at Lachish?”

Yesterday Luke posted a clarification here that was sent to him by the Fourth Lachish Expedition director Yossi Garfinkel. Garfinkel suggests that the new architectural features discovered at Lachish probably should not be called “gates.” He says there are no chambers on both sides of the opening. He says, “so we might have simple openings in the city wall rather than official gates.” The first opening had already been noted by Olga Tufnell after the first expedition at Lachish by Starkey. Tufnell said it was a “blocked Iron Age” gate. Garfinkel thinks it “is probably a Middle Bronze blocked gate.”

Prof. Garfinkel says the second opening found this year is “dated to Level I (Persian) and Level II (586 BC destruction), so this opening is not ‘Early Iron Age’ as [Chandler] wrote.”

This illustrates one of the reasons archaeologists often withhold their findings from the public until they can be more certain about what they have, and even then they point out that the findings are preliminary.

I have dabbled in archaeology enough through personal study, participation at Lachish in 1981, and attendance at the annual meetings of the professional societies fairly regularly for the past 40 years, to know that interpretations change from day-to-day, and season-to-season. Patience is recommended.

Chambered gate at Gezer. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Chambered gate at Gezer. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.


Have new gates been discovered at Lachish?

Luke Chandler has reported the identification of new entrances to the ancient city of Lachish here. The late Iron Age gate where the Lachish Letters were discovered is marked by an oval (almost circle). This is the entry to the site used by tourists who visit.

The newly-identified entrances are in the area of the rectangle marking. This is the area where most (or all) of the current excavations have been conducted.

Aerial view of Lachish showing Iron Age gate (oval), and the earlier gate (rectangle). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aerial view of Lachish showing Iron Age gate (oval), and the earlier gate (rectangle). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Chandler says that the newly-identified entrances have preliminary dating to the earlier Iron Age [1200-900 BC, the period of the Judges and the United Kingdom] and the Middle Bronze periods [2050-1550 BC, the period of the Patriarchs]. He says this is where Prof. Yosef Garfinkel plans to begin the 2015 season of excavations.

Chris McKinny, a staff member of the Tel Burna Excavation Project, discusses the importance of the discovery if one of the gates does prove to belong to the “early Iron Age.” He says,

If this is in fact a gate that can be dated to the “early Iron Age,” then this is a very important discovery for reconstructing Israel/Judah’s geopolitical character in the 10th and 9th centuries BCE.

Read his full discussion at Bible Places.


The fourth archaeological expedition to Tel Lachish

Announcement has been made through various sources of the anticipated fourth archaeological expedition to Tel Lachish. Archaeologists who have been working at Khirbet Qeiyafa (the Elah Fortress), Yosef Garfinkel, Michael Hasel, and Martin Klingbeil, announced a new excavation at Lachish in the Nov./Dec. 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. BAR has made available a collection of seven articles dealing with the third excavation (1974-1984) under the direction of Prof. David Ussishkin.

These links may be broken in the near future, but if you have access to the BAR on CD or Logos this may serve as a helpful bibliography.

Lachish is thought to be the second most important city of Judah after Jerusalem. This is based on the fact that both the Assyrians and the Babylonians destroyed the city immediately before moving to Jerusalem. Rehoboam (931-913 B.C.) built Lachish and other cities in Judah for defense (2 Chronicles 11;5-9). Other kings fortified them to be used for the storage of food, oil and wine.

Our photo below shows Tel Lachish from the air. In the bottom left quarter (south west) of the photo you will see a small parking lot with a path leading through them to the gate of the city. To the right of the path, beginning at the grove of trees you will see the siege ramp built by Sennacherib, king of Assyrian, in 701 B.C. The photo also shows the defensive Judean counter-ramp found in the 1983, and described by Ussishkin in the 1984 article.

Tel Lachish from the air. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tel Lachish from the air. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The previous excavations at Tel Lachish (earlier called Tell ed-Duweir) are,

  • A British expedition directed by James L. Starkey and Olga Tufnell – 1932-1938
  • Israeli expedition directed by Yohanan Aharoni, Tel Aviv University, 1966, 1968

Use the Search box to locate other entries on Lachish.

HT: Steven Braman

James Leslie Starkey, excavator of Lachish

James Leslie Starkey was born in London January 3, 1895. He became interested in ancient history by reading books such as Layard’s Nineveh and Its Remains. He took a course in Egyptology and came in contact with Flinders Petrie. Later he worked with Petrie in Egypt.

Starkey joined Petrie in the excavation at Tell Jemmeh, then at Tell el Far’ah (South) in southern Palestine, where he directed the dig during the final season.

In 1932 Starkey began his own dig at Tell ed-Duwer, identified as biblical Lachish. During his six years at the site, one of the more significant finds was the Lachish Letters which date to the period of the end of the Babylonian conquest of Judah, during the time of the prophet Jeremiah.

While on his way to Jerusalem in January 1938, for the opening of the new Palestine Archaeological (Rockefeller) Museum, Starkey was shot in an ambush.

Starkey was buried in the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion. Four years later the body of his former mentor, Flinders Petrie, was laid to rest a few yards away.

Tomb of James Leslie Starkey, excavator of Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tomb of James Leslie Starkey, excavator of Lachish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I found that information about Starkey is somewhat limited. Much of the info here has been gleaned from a page about Starkey on The Palestine Exploration Fund web site here. There you will see a photograph of Starkey with Petrie, and Olga Tufnell who spent twenty years to complete the four volumes of the Lachish Excavation Reports.

Sunset at Lachish

This photo was made from inside the gate at Lachish looking west toward the Mediterranean Sea. The city faced two significant sunsets. It fell to the Babylonians in 587 B.C. The Lachish Letters were found immediately outside this gate in a room on the left. My friend and colleague, the late Phil Roberts, worked in the gate when we were at Lachish in 1980. Phil continued to work there each year until the excavation came to a close. When the prophet Jeremiah wrote, only Lachish and Azekah remained of the fortified cities of Judah (Jeremiah 34:7).

Lachish fell to the Assyrians more than a hundred years earlier in 701 B.C.The Bible records the events after the fall of Samaria this way,

Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them. Then Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear.” So the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. Hezekiah gave him all the silver which was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasuries of the king’s house. At that time Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the doorposts which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria. Then the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rab-saris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah with a large army to Jerusalem. So they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they went up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway of the fuller’s field. (2 Kings 18:13-17)

Sennacherib was unable to capture Jerusalem. I take it that the destruction of Lachish was his greatest achievement because he plastered the walls of his palace in Nineveh. This photo shows the king receiving the surrender of Lachish.

The cuneiform inscription reads as follows:

Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria, sat upon a (nîmedu) -throne and passed in review the booty (taken) from Lachish (La-ki-su). (ANET 288).

Lachish on July 4th

On July 4, 1980, I was participating in the excavation at Tel Lachish in Israel along with three of my colleagues from Florida College (James Hodges, Phil Roberts, and Harold Tabor). There were sizable numbers of participants from Israel, United States, Australia, South Africa, and Germany. In addition to the hard work out in the sun, we had some fun. On the morning of July 4th a few of the guys got an American flag and put together a drum and bugle corp and marched across the tel. Note especially the plastic bucket being used as a drum in this photo.

Lachish is identified with Tell ed-Duweir, located in the shephelah (lowlands) of Judah about 30 miles south west of Jerusalem. It is mentioned in Scripture during the period of the conquest (Joshua 10, 12, 15). Lachish served as one of the Judean store cities during the period of the kingdom Judah. Many of the LMLK jar handles have been found here. The city fell both to the Assyrians and the Babylonians.

Excavations were carried out by the British between 1932 and 1938 under the direction of J. L. Starkey. Starkey was murdered in 1938 while en route to the opening of the Palestine Archaeological Museum (later the Rockefeller Museum) in Jerusalem. Professor Yohanan Aharoni of Tel Aviv University excavated the “Solar Shrine” in 1966 and 1968. A new excavation was begun in 1973 under the auspices of The Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University and The Israel Exploration Society. Dr. David Ussishkin served as the director until 1994.

One afternoon while we were in our tented camp a short distance from the tel, a bus load of Arabs from Jordan arrived. They had once lived in the area, prior to the founding of the State of Israel. Some of the older men had worked with Starkey. This photo which I took shows four of the Arab men and three of the Israeli archaeologists, along with one American. See if you recognize Gabriel Barkay, Richard Whitaker, Adam Zertal, and David Ussishkin.

The Arab men enjoyed seeing the old photos from the Starkey excavations and pointing out themselves as much younger men. I think you will see Ussishkin’s head to the left of the Arab, and Barkay on the right.

I thought you might enjoy this little bit of recent history from 28 years ago.

Update (July 6, 2008). Todd Bolen, at BiblePlaces.com has commented on this blog under the title Reminiscences of Lachish. He says he heard Gabriel Barkay tell about this event, but he includes some additional information that I did not know, including the name of the village where the Arabs previously lived.

The town of Qubeibe was leveled by the Israeli military in the 1960s and the stones of the village, probably many taken from the ruins of Lachish, were sold to building contractors.  Who knows but some ancient inscription was unknowing transferred from Lachish to Qubeibe and is now part of a wall in the area?

I recall that Richard Whitaker was the one best able to converse in Arabic.

LMLK jar handles

During the time of the Divided Kingdom, pottery jars with handles bearing the Hebrew letters LMLK seem to have been in common use. T. C. Mitchell comments briefly on these handles:

These handles of pottery jars which had been stamped before baking, with seals show symbols, either a four-winged scarab or a two-winged disc, with lmlk, ‘belonging to the king’ written above it in Hebrew script and a place-name below it. Over eight hundred of these stamped handles have been found at over twenty excavated sites in Palestine, nearly all in the territory to which Judah was confined by about 700 BC. (The Bible in the British Museum, page 55).

Tourists who have an interest in archaeology often pick up shards of pottery as they walk across various tells. It is not uncommon to locate a jar handle or the rim of a bowl. Recently a college student found a LMLK handle at Ramat Rahel, a site between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Several blogs have commented on it. Todd Bolen has a nice photo of the handle here. A newspaper article about the chance find is here.The LMLK web site has a report here.

This is a photo of a LMLK jar handle that I made in the British Museum. The handle was found at Lachish. The LMLK handles have the phrase LMLK (“belonging to the king”) and the name of one of the cities that served as a distribution center: HBRN (Hebron), ZP (Ziph), SWKH (Socoh), or MMST. This one has SWKH.

King Hezekiah built “storehouses…for the produce of grain, wine and oil” (2 Chronicles 32:28). Mitchell says that the LMLK vessels “would have been suitable for any of the three staples derived from the land, grain, wine or oil.”