Coordinates : 31°41′47″N 34°57′26″E / 31.69639°N
34.95722°E / 31.69639; 34.95722
31°41′47″N 34°57′27″E / 31.6963°N 34.9575°E /
Iron Age ,
Yosef Garfinkel ,
Khirbet Qeiyafa Archaeological Project
This article is about the archaeological site. For mention of this
city in the Bible, see
KHIRBET QEIYAFA (ELAH FORTRESS; HIRBET KAIFEH) is the site of an
ancient fortress city overlooking the Elah Valley . The ruins of the
fortress were uncovered in 2007, near the Israeli city of Beit
Shemesh , 30 km (20 mi) from
Jerusalem . It covers nearly 2.5 ha (6
acres) and is encircled by a 700-meter-long (2,300 ft) city wall
constructed of stones weighing up to eight tons each. A number of
archaeologists, mainly Garfinkel and Ganor, have claimed that it might
be the biblical city of Sha\'arayim or Neta'im and that the large
building at the center is an administrative building dating to the
King David might have lodged at some point
based on their conclusions that the site dates to the early Iron IIA,
ca. 1025–975 BCE , a range which includes the biblical date for the
Kingdom of David. Others are sceptical, and suggest it might represent
either a North Israelite,
Philistine or Canaanite fortress. The
techniques and interpretations used to reach the conclusion that
Khirbet Qeiyafa was a fortress of
King David have been criticised.
* 1 Name
* 2 Geography
* 3 Site and excavation history
* 4 Dating
* 5 Identification
* 6 Archaeological finds
Khirbet Qeiyafa inscription
Khirbet Qeiyafa shrines
* 9 King David\'s Palace
* 10 See also
* 11 References
* 12 External links
* 13 Exhibited artifacts
The meaning of the Arabic name of the site, Khirbet Qeiyafa, is
uncertain. Scholars suggest it may mean "the place with a wide view."
Hebrew name , מבצר האלה, or The Elah Fortress
was suggested by Foundation Stone directors
David Willner and Barnea
Levi Selavan at a meeting with Garfinkel and Ganor in early 2008.
Garfinkel accepted the idea and excavation t-shirts with that name
were produced for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. The name derives from the
location of the site on the northern bank of Nahal Elah, one of six
brooks that flow from the
Judean mountains to the coastal plain.
Aerial view View of Tel Azeka from Khirbet Qeiyafa,
Israel. Top wall is later; lower walls from
Iron Age site. Note
plastered room interior wall.
The Elah Fortress lies just inside a north-south ridge of hills
Philistia and Gath to the west from
Judea to the east. The
ridge also includes the site currently identified as Tel
Past this ridge is a series of connecting valleys between two parallel
groups of hills. Tel
Sokho lies on the southern ridge with Tel Adullam
behind it. The Elah Fortress is situated on the northern ridge,
overlooking several valleys with a clear view of the
Behind it to the northeast is Tel Yarmut . From the topography,
archaeologists believe this was the location of the cities of Adullam,
Azekah and Yarmut cited in Joshua 15:35. These valleys formed
the border between
Philistia and Judea.
SITE AND EXCAVATION HISTORY
The site of
Khirbet Qeiyafa was surveyed in the 1860s by Victor
Guérin who reported the presence of a village on the hilltop. In
1875, British surveyors noted only stone heaps. In 1932, Dimitri
Baramki, reported the site to hold a 35 square metres (380 sq ft)
watchtower associated with Khirbet Quleidiya (Horvat Qolad), 200
metres (660 ft) east. The site was mostly neglected in the 20th
century and not mentioned by leading scholars. Yehuda Dagan conducted
more intense surveys in the 1990s and documented the visible remains.
The site raised curiosity in 2005 when
Saar Ganor discovered
Iron Age structures under the remnants.
Khirbet Qeiyafa began in 2007, directed by Yosef
Garfinkel of the
Hebrew University and
Saar Ganor of the Israel
Antiquities Authority , and continued in 2008. Nearly 600 square
metres (6,500 sq ft) of an
Iron Age IIA city were unearthed. Based on
pottery styles and two burned olive pits tested for carbon-14 at
Oxford University , Garfinkel and Ganor have dated the site to
1050–970 BCE, although
Israel Finkelstein contends evidence points
to habitation between 1050 and 915 BCE.
The initial excavation by Ganor and Garfinklel took place from August
12 to 26, 2007 on behalf of the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Institute of Archaeology. In their preliminary report at the annual
ASOR conference on November 15, they presented a theory that the site
was the Biblical
Azekah , which until then had been exclusively
associated with Tell Zakariya . In July of 2008,
David Willner of
Foundation Stone identified features in the city wall similar to the
features found by Garfinkel and Ganor in the western gate, informing
Garfinkel of a probable second gate. In November, with volunteers from
the Bnai Akiva youth organization, the area was cleared and an
excavation organized by Garfinkel and Ganor confirmed the architecture
of the second gate. The identification provides a solid basis (though
not definitive and not without debate) for identifying the site as
Sha'arayim ("two gates" in Hebrew).
In 2015 a plan to build a neighborhood on the site was cancelled, to
enable the archaeological dig to go forward.
Elah fortress walls
Releasing the preliminary dig reports for the 2010 and 2011 digging
seasons at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the
Israel Antiquities Authority stated:
"The excavations at Khirbat Qeiyafa clearly reveal an urban society
that existed in Judah already in the late eleventh century BCE. It can
no longer be argued that the Kingdom of Judah developed only in the
late eighth century BCE or at some other later date."
Khirbet Qeiyafa are significant to the debate about
the veracity of the biblical account of the United Monarchy at the
Iron Age II. As no archaeological finds were found that
could corroborate claims of the existence of a magnificent biblical
kingdom, various scholars have advanced the opinion that the kingdom
was no more than a small tribal entity. Garfinkel, who said in 2010
that the debate could not "be answered by the Qeiyafa excavations", is
of the opinion that "what is clear, however, is that the kingdom of
Judah existed already as a centrally organized state in the tenth
century BCE". In addition to Garfinkel's theory there are two other
hypotheses: one, supported by Nadav Na’aman and Ido Koch holds the
ruins to be Canaanite, based on strong similarities with the nearby
Canaanite excavations at Beit Shemesh. The third hypothesis, advanced
Israel Finkelstein and Alexander Fantalkin, maintains that the site
shows affiliations with a North Israelite entity. In 2015 Finkelstein
and Piasetsky specifically criticised the previous statistical
treatment of radio-carbon dating at
Khirbet Qeiyafa and also whether
it was prudent to ignore results from neighboring sites.
Gershon Galil of the
University of Haifa identified Khirbet
Qeiyafa as the "Neta'im" of 1 Chronicles 4:23, due to its proximity to
Khirbet Ğudrayathe (biblical Gederah). The inhabitants of both cities
were said to be "potters" and "in the King's service", a description
that is consistent with the archeological discoveries at that site.
Yehuda Dagan of the
Israel Antiquities Authority also disagrees with
the identification as Sha'arayim. Dagan believes the ancient
Philistine retreat route, after their defeat in the battle at the
Valley of Elah (1
Samuel 17:52), more likely identifies Sha'arayim
with the remains of Khirbet esh-Shari'a. Dagan proposes that Khirbet
Qeiyafa be identified with biblical Adithaim (Joshua 15:36).
The fortifications at
Khirbet Qeiyafa predate those of contemporary
Beersheba , Arad , and
Timnah . All these sites have yielded
pottery dated to early
Iron Age II. The parallel valley to the north,
Samuel I, runs from the
Philistine city of
Ekron to Tel
Beit Shemesh . The city gate of the Elah Fortress faces west with a
path down to the road leading to the sea, and was thus named "Gath
Gate" or "Sea Gate." The 23-dunam (5.7-acre) site is surrounded by a
casement wall and fortifications. The top layer of the fortress shows
that the fortifications were renewed in the
Garfinkel suggests that it was a
Judean city with 500–600
inhabitants during the reign of
Solomon . Based on
pottery finds at Qeiyafa and Gath, archaeologists believe the sites
belonged to two distinct ethnic groups. "The finds have not yet
established who the residents were," says
Aren Maeir , a Bar Ilan
University archaeologist digging at Gath. "It will become more clear
if, for example, evidence of the local diet is found. Excavations have
shown that Philistines ate dogs and pigs, while Israelites did not.
The nature of the ceramic shards found at the site suggest residents
might have been neither Israelites nor Philistines but members of a
third, forgotten people." Evidence that the city was not Philistine
comes from the private houses that abut the city wall, an arrangement
that was not used in
Philistine cities. There is also evidence of
equipment for baking flat bread and hundreds of bones from goats,
cattle, sheep, and fish. Significantly, no pig bones have been
uncovered, suggesting that the city was not
Philistine or Canaanite.
Nadav Na'aman of Tel Aviv University nevertheless associates it with
Philistine Gath, citing the necessity for further excavations as well
as evidence from Bet Shemesh whose inhabitants also avoided eating
pork, yet were associated with Ekron. Na'aman proposed identification
Philistine city of Gob.
Yigal Levin has proposed that the ma'gal (מעגל) or "circular
camp" of the Israelites which is mentioned in the story of
Samuel 17:20) was described this way because it fitted the
circular shape of the nearby Khirbet Qeiyafa. Levin argues that the
David and Goliath is set decades before
Khirbet Qeiyafa was
built and so the reference to Israel's encampment at the ma'gal
probably does "not represent any particular historical event at all".
But when the story was composed centuries later, the round structure
Khirbet Qeiyafa "would still have been visible and known to the
author of 1
Samuel 17", who "guessed its function, and worked it into
Pottery in situ, 2009
The site consists of a lower city of about 10 hectares and an upper
city of about 3 hectares (7.4 acres) surrounded by a massive defensive
wall ranging from 2–4 metres (6 ft 7 in–13 ft 1 in) tall. The
walls are built in the same manner as the walls of Hazor and
formed by a casemate (a pair of walls with a chamber in between). At
the center of the upper city is a large rectangular enclosure with
spacious rooms on the south, equivalent to similar enclosures found at
royal cities such as
Lachish , and
Ramat Rachel . On the
southern slope, outside the city, there are
Iron Age rock-cut tombs.
The site, according to Garfinkel, has "a town plan characteristic of
the Kingdom of Judah that is also known from other sites, e.g., Beit
Tell en-Nasbeh ,
Tell Beit Mirsim and
Beersheba . A casemate
wall was built at all of these sites and the city’s houses next to
it incorporated the casemates as one of the dwelling's rooms. This
model is not known from any Canaanite,
Philistine or Kingdom of Israel
The site is massively fortified, "including the use of stones that
weigh up to eight tons apiece."
"500 jar handles bearing a single finger print, or sometimes two or
three, were found. Marking jar handles is characteristic of the
Kingdom of Judah and it seems this practice has already begun in the
Iron Age IIA."
Area "A" extended 5×5 metres and consists of two major layers:
Hellenistic above, and
Iron Age II below. Area "B" contains four
squares, about 2.5 metres deep from top-soil to bedrock, and also
Iron Age layers. Surveys on the surface
have also revealed sherds from the early and middle Bronze Ages, as
well as from the Persian, Roman, Byzantine, early Islamic, Mameluke
and Ottoman periods. Išbaʿal son of Beda inscription
The Hellenistic/upper portion of the wall was built with small rocks
atop the Iron-II lower portion, consisting of big boulders in a
casemate design. Part of a structure identified as a city gate was
uncovered, and some of the rocks where the wall meets this gate are
estimated to weigh 3 to 5 tons . The lower phase was built of
especially large stones, 1–3 meters long, and the heaviest of them
weigh 3–5 tons. Atop these stones is a thin wall, c. 1.5 meters
thick; small and medium size fieldstones were used in its
construction. These two fortification phases rise to a height of 2–3
meters and standout at a distance, evidence of the great effort that
was invested in fortifying the place.
In 2012 an inscription in Canaanite alphabetic script was found on
the shoulder of a ceramic jar. The inscription read "Išbaʿal son of
Beda" and was dated to
Iron Age IIA.
KHIRBET QEIYAFA INSCRIPTION
Artist's rendition of the ostracon
A 15-by-16.5-centimetre (5.9 in × 6.5 in) ostracon , a trapezoid
-shaped potsherd with five lines of text, was discovered during
excavations at the site in 2008.
Although the writing on the ostracon is poorly preserved and
difficult to read,
Émile Puech of the
École Biblique et
Archéologique Française proposed that it be read: 1 Do not oppress,
and serve God … despoiled him/her 2 The judge and the widow wept; he
had the power 3 over the resident alien and the child, he eliminated
them together 4 The men and the chiefs/officers have established a
king 5 He marked 60 servants among the
and understood the ostracon as a locally written copy of a message
from the capital informing a local official of the ascent of Saul to
the throne. Puech considered the language to be Canaanite or Hebrew
Gershon Galil of
Haifa University proposed the following translation:
1 you shall not do , but worship (the god) 2 Judge the sla and the
wid / Judge the orph 3 the stranger. ead for the infant / plead for
the po 4 the widow. Rehabilitate at the hands of the king 5 Protect
the po the slave / ort the stranger.
On January 10, 2010, the
University of Haifa issued a press release
stating that the text was a social statement relating to slaves,
widows and orphans. According to this interpretation, the text "uses
verbs that were characteristic of Hebrew, such as _asah_ ("did") and
`_avad_ ("worked"), which were rarely used in other regional
languages. Particular words that appear in the text, such as _almanah_
("widow") are specific to Hebrew and are written differently in other
local languages. The content itself, it is argued, was also unfamiliar
to all the cultures in the region besides that of Hebrew society. It
was further maintained that the present inscription yielded social
elements similar to those found in the biblical prophecies markedly
different from those current in by other cultures that write of the
glorification of the gods and taking care of their physical needs."
Gershon Galil claims that the language of inscription is Hebrew and
that 8 out of 18 words written on inscription are exclusively
biblical. He also claimed that 30 major archeological scholars do
support this thesis.
Other readings are possible, however, and the official excavation
report presented many possible reconstructions of the letters without
attempting a translation. The inscription is written left to right in
a script which is probably Early Alphabetic/Proto Phoenician, though
Christopher Rollston and Demsky consider that it might be written
vertically. Early Alphabetic differs from old Hebrew script and its
immediate ancestor. Rollston also disputes the claim that the
language is Hebrew, arguing that the words alleged to be indicative of
Hebrew either appear in other languages or don't actually appear in
Millard believes the language of the inscription is Hebrew,
Canaanite, Phoenician or Moabite and it most likely consists of a list
of names written by someone unused to writing. Hebrew University
Amihai Mazar said the inscription was very important, as
it is the longest
Proto-Canaanite text ever found.
In 2010 the ostracon was placed on display in the
Iron Age gallery of
Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
KHIRBET QEIYAFA SHRINES
In May 2012 archeologists announced the discovery of three large
rooms that were likely used as cultic shrines. While the Canaanites
Philistine practiced their cults in separate temples and shrines,
they did not have separate rooms within the buildings dedicated only
to religious rituals. This may suggest that the rooms did not belong
to these two cultures. According to Garfinkel the decorations of
cultic rooms lack any human figurines. He suggested "that the
Khirbet Qeiyafa observed at least two biblical bans, on
pork and on graven images, and thus practiced a different cult than
that of the Canaanites or the Philistines," Also, three smaller
portable shrines were discovered. The smaller shrines are boxes shaped
with different decorations showing impressive architectonic and
decorative styles. Garfinkel suggested the existence of a biblical
parallel regarding the existence of such shrines (II
Samuel 6). One of
the shrines is decorated with two pillars and a lion. According to
Garfinkel, the style and the decoration of these cultic objects are
very similar to the Biblical description of some features of
Solomon\'s Temple .
KING DAVID\'S PALACE
On July 18, 2013, the
Israel Antiquities Authority issued a press
release about the discovery of a structure believed to be King
David’s palace in the
Judean Shephelah. The archaeological team
uncovered two large buildings dated to the tenth century BCE, one a
large palatial structure and the other a pillared store room with
hundreds of stamped storage vessels. The claim that the larger
structure may be one of King David's palaces led to significant media
coverage, while skeptics accused the archaeologists of sensationalism.
Aren Maeir , an archaeologist at
Bar Ilan University , pointed out
that existence of King David’s monarchy is still unproven and some
scholars believe the buildings could be
Philistine or Canaanite. The
massive structure located on a hill in the center of the city was
decorated with alabaster imported from Egypt. On one side it offered a
view of the two city gates, Ashdod and the Mediterranean, and on the
other, the Elah Valley. During the Byzantine era, a wealthy farmer
built a home on the site, cutting the palace in two.
* Archaeology of
* ^ Rabinovitch, Ari (October 30, 2008). "Archaeologists report
finding oldest Hebrew text". Reuters. Retrieved November 5, 2011.
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ Garfinkel, Yosef; Ganor, Saar (2008).
"Khirbet Qeiyafa: Sha’arayim" (PDF). _The Journal of Hebrew
Scriptures_. 8. ISSN 1203-1542 . Archived from the original (pdf) on
October 4, 2011. Retrieved November 5, 2011.
* ^ Catling, Chris (January 6, 2009). "Elah city-fortress, Khirbet
Qeiyafa". _Current World Archaeology_ (33): 8. Retrieved November 16,
* ^ Kalman, Matthew (October 31, 2008). "\'Proof\'
Goliath found as Israeli archaeologists unearth \'oldest ever Hebrew
text\'". Daily Mail. Retrieved November 5, 2011.
* ^ "
Khirbet Qeiyafa Identified as Biblical \'Neta\'im\'". Science
Daily . Retrieved March 26, 2011.
* ^ "Have Archaeologists Found King David’s Palace?". Bible
Gateway. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
* ^ _A_ _B_ "King David’s Palace at Khirbet Qeiyafa?". Bible
History Daily. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
* ^ _A_ _B_ Finkelstein, Israel; Fantalkin, Alexander (2012).
"Khirbet Qeiyafa: An Unsensational Archaeological and Historical
Interpretation" (PDF). TEL AVIV, Vol. 39. pp. 38–63. Retrieved July
20, 2017. We cannot close this article without a comment on the
sensational way in which the finds of
Khirbet Qeiyafa have been
communicated to both the scholarly community and the public. The idea
that a single, spectacular finding can reverse the course of modern
research and save the literal reading of the biblical text regarding
the history of ancient
Israel from critical scholarship is an old one.
Its roots can be found in W.F. Albright’s assault on the Wellhausen
School in the early 20th century, an assault that biased
archaeological, biblical and historical research for decades. This
trend—in different guises—has resurfaced sporadically in recent
years, with archaeology serving as a weapon to quell progress in
Khirbet Qeiyafa is the latest case in this genre
of craving a cataclysmic defeat of critical modern scholarship by a
miraculous archaeological discovery
* ^ _A_ _B_ Julia Fridman, \'Crying King David: Are the ruins found
Israel really his palace? ,\' at
Haaretz , 26 August 2013."Not all
agree that the ruins found in
Khirbet Qeiyafa are of the biblical town
Shaarayim, let alone the palace of ancient Israel's most famous king."
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ Dagan, Yehuda (2009). "Khirbet Qeiyafa
Judean Shephelah: Some Considerations" (pdf). _Tel Aviv:
Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University_. 36:
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Selavan, Barnea Levi (August 2008). "Elah Fortress
– A short history of the site". Foundation Stone. Retrieved November
* ^ "
Khirbet Qeiyafa Archaeological Project".
Hebrew University of
Jerusalem. Retrieved November 5, 2011.
* ^ Finkelstein, Israel; Piasetzky, Eli (June 2010). "Khirbet
Qeiyafa: Absolute Chronology" (PDF). _Tel Aviv: Journal of the
Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University_. 37 (1): 84–88. doi
:10.1179/033443510x12632070179621 . Retrieved 18 March 2011.
* ^ "ASOR 2007 Conference abstracts" (PDF).
Boston University .
Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 May 2008. Retrieved 30 December
* ^ Hasson, Nir (10 December 2015). "
Beit Shemesh Scraps Plan for
New Neighborhood Near Archaeological Site". Haaretz. Retrieved 10
* ^ "
Israel Antiquities Authority". Hadashot-esi.org.il. Retrieved
20 December 2014.
* ^ "Archaeology: What an Ancient Hebrew Note Might Mean", Govier,
Gordon, _Christianity Today_ 1/18/2010
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Shtull, Asaf (21 July 1993). "The Keys to the
Haaretz _. Retrieved 2011-07-14.
* ^ Garfinkel, Yosef (May–June 2011). "The Birth & Death of
Biblical Minimalism". _Biblical Archaeology Review_. 37 (03).
* ^ Finkelstein, Israel; Piasetzky, Eli (2015). "Radiocarbon dating
Khirbet Qeiyafa and the Iron I–IIA phases in the Shephelah:
Methodological comments and a Bayesian model". Radiocarbon, Vol 57, Nr
5. pp. 891–907.
* ^ "
Khirbet Qeiyafa identified as biblical "Neta’im"".
University of Haifa . March 4, 2010. Retrieved July 14, 2011.
* ^ Ethan Bronner (2008-10-29). "Find of Ancient City Could Alter
Notions of Biblical David". _New York Times_. Retrieved 2008-11-05.
* ^ "Have Israeli archaeologists found world\'s oldest Hebrew
Haaretz _. Associated Press. October 30, 2008.
Retrieved November 5, 2011.
* ^ Friedman, Matti (October 30, 2008). "Israeli Archaeologists
Find Ancient Text". _AOL news_. Associated Press. Archived from the
original on November 3, 2008.
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Draper, Robert (December 2010). "
Solomon". _National Geographic _. Retrieved 2011-07-14.
* ^ Garfinkel, Yosef (2010). "
Khirbet Qeiyafa after Four Seasons of
Excavations" (PDF). Retrieved November 5, 2011.
* ^ _A_ _B_ Na'aman, Nadav (2008). "In search of the ancient name
of Khirbet Qeiyafa". _The Journal of Hebrew Scriptures_. ISSN
1203-1542 . Retrieved November 5, 2011.
* ^ _A_ _B_ Levin, Yigal (2012). "The Identification of Khirbet
Qeiyafa: A New Suggestion". _Bulletin of the American Schools of
Oriental Research_. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Garfinkel, Yossi; Sa'ar Ganor; Michael Hasel (19
April 2012). "Horvat Qeiyafa: The Fortification of the Border of the
Kingdom of Judah". _Hadashot Arkheologiyot – Excavations and Surveys
Israel (HA-ESI)_. 124. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Garfinkel, Yossi; Ganor, Sa'ar. "Horvat Qeiyafa:
The Fortification of the Border of the Kingdom of Judah". Israel
Antiquities Authority. Retrieved November 5, 2011.
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ "Most ancient Hebrew biblical inscription
deciphered". University of Haifa. January 10, 2010. Archived from the
original on October 5, 2011. Retrieved November 5, 2011.
* ^ Leval, Gerard (2012). "Ancient Inscription Refers to Birth of
Israelite Monarchy." _Biblical Archaeology Review_. May/June 2012,
Émile Puech (2010). "l'ostracon de Khirbet Qeyafa et les
débuts de la royauté en Israël". _Revue Biblique_. 117 (2):
162–184. On a affaire au premier document de quelque longueur, en