Where Did the Philistines Come From? Horned altar from Tell es-Safi hints at the origins of the Philistines Biblical Archaeology Society Staff • 01/19/2012
This nearly 4-foot-tall, two-horned altar from the site of Tell es-Safi (Gath of the Philistines) suggests the origins of the Philistines are to be sought in the Aegean world.
The excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, the site of Gath of the Philistines mentioned in the Bible (e.g., 1 Samuel 6:17), have produced many fascinating finds,* and the summer of 2011 was no exception.
While uncovering an impressive destruction level dating to the second half of the ninth century B.C.E., when Gath was the largest of the five cities of the Philistines and perhaps the largest city in the Land of Israel during the Iron Age, excavators found an exceptionally well preserved horned altar reminiscent of the Israelite horned altars described in the Bible (Exodus 27:1–2; 1 Kings 1:50).
Had it not been for a stroke of luck, the horned altar may never have been discovered. Like most archaeological digs, the Tell es-Safi/Gath excavation leaves unexcavated “balks” between the excavation squares, thereby allowing easier access to the squares as well as providing a profile view of the excavated layers. In the winter of 2010/2011, however, strong rainstorms caused some of the balks to collapse.
Our free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries brings together the exciting worlds of archaeology and the Bible! Learn the fascinating insights gained from artifacts and ruins, like the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored the sight of the blind man, and the Tel Dan inscription—the first historical evidence of King David outside the Bible. When the team came back to the field in July 2011, one of their first priorities was to clean up and straighten the collapsed balks. As they cleaned one of the balks in Area D (in the lower city), they came upon an unusually shaped stone object just 10 inches below the surface. Work was immediately stopped as they probed further, and, lo and behold, one of the horns of the altar appeared. Once they realized what they had discovered, the team began the slow, delicate process of excavating the entire horned altar.
The horned altar stands nearly 3.5 feet high and measures just over 1.5 feet on each side. These dimensions more or less match the dimensions given in the Bible (Exodus 30:2) for the Israelite incense altar of the Tabernacle (though this altar shows no signs of having been used to burn incense). Moreover, the decorative features of the altar, including its horns and the groove and raised band of the base, are similar to Israelite altars described in the Bible (Exodus 27:2), as well as other Iron Age altars that have been found throughout the southern Levant.
But why does this altar have only two horns, when we know from the Bible and excavated examples that the altars of both the Israelites and, later, the Philistines, typically had four horns?**
The fact that the Tell es-Safi/Gath horned altar has only two horns may have to do with the cultural origins of the Philistines. As Louise Hitchcock, senior staff member of the Tell es-Safi/Gath excavations, has suggested, the very motif of the horned altar in the Levant may have been influenced by earlier Minoan “horns of consecration,” symbolic representations of the horns of the sacred bull in Minoan culture. In fact, there is an altar from the Late Bronze Age site of Myrtous Pigadhes in Cyprus that also has only two horns. The unique horned altar from Tell es-Safi/Gath, the earliest stone altar ever found from the land of the Philistines, may be another indication of the Aegean influences on early Philistine culture and quite possibly a hint to their origins.
* See Aren M. Maeir, “Did Captured Ark Afflict Philistines with E.D.?” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2008; Aren M. Maeir and Carl S. Ehrlich, “Excavating Philistine Gath: Have We Found Goliath’s Hometown?” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2001.
** See Yoel Elitzur and Doron Nir-Zevi, “Four-Horned Altar Discovered in Judean Hills,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2004, and “Horned Altar for Animal Sacrifice Unearthed at Beer-Sheva,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March 1975.
Shameful: IDF Soldier Abandoned to Arab Mob in Nabi SalahCalls for emergency Knesset meeting after soldier filmed being beaten by Arab women and children; Liberman: Gov't shows weakness. Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on email Share on print More Sharing Services 129 By Uzi Baruch First Publish: 8/29/2015, 10:26 PM
Soldier beaten by Palestinian womenFlash 90 Unbelievable footage has emerged showing an IDF soldier being beaten by Arab women and children in the village of Nabi Salah, Samaria
The video is already being seen by some as proof that the army is having its hands effectively tied, both by increasingly restrictive instructions on how to handle violent Palestinian rioters, as well as by insufficient backup from the political echelons against legal campaigns by leftist NGOs targeting IDF soldiers.
Nabi Salah is a particularly extreme Palestinian Arab village, which also hosts large number of far-left foreign activists. Arab and foreign "activists" regularly stage provocations and violent riots targeting both nearby Jewish villagers and IDF forces.
The video shows IDF soldiers responding to a riot on Friday, with one soldier detaining a juvenile rock-thrower. However, the situation quickly escalates as he is gradually surrounded by a crowd, largely consisting of screeching women and children.
As the soldier calls for backup in dispersing the crowd, some of the women and youths begin punching and hitting him. Despite being armed and trained in hand-to-hand combat, he clearly feels unable to respond.
Only after some time does another soldier arrive to disperse the crowd and extricate his colleague - who is forced to leave the rock-thrower behind.
Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman responded to the video by demanding an urgent meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Liberman called on committee chair MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud) to convene a meeting as early as Sunday to discuss the IDF's rules of engagement in the Nabi Salah area.
"We are talking about an incident which severely harms the deterrent capacity of the IDF," Liberman said. "The pictures - which show an IDF soldier being hit by Palestinian women and children, and in the end giving up on (arresting) the rock-thrower who started the whole incident - broadcasts weakness and helplessness on the part of the IDF and Israel."
"This is the end result of the feeble and stuttering conduct of the prime minister and defense minister, who also did not prevent the interrogation of the Binyamin Regional Commander Colonel Yisrael Shomer, and Lt. Colonel Neria Yeshurun," he added, referring to two military commanders targeted by leftist NGOs who many feel were abandoned by the government.
"Netanyahu and Yaalon's conduct broadcasts to the soldiers of the IDF that they are fighting to defend the State of Israel without backup and without direction - and this is the result.
Jeremiah, Prophet of the Bible, Brought Back to Life Clay bullae from the City of David, Jerusalem, provide new evidence for Biblical figures Biblical Archaeology Society Staff • 08/24/2015
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in March 2012. It has been updated.—Ed.
The relationship between archaeology and the Bible is not always an easy one, but sometimes they come together in striking agreement as witnesses to history. Two small clay bullae (seal impressions) found in the course of Eilat Mazar’s City of David, Jerusalem, excavations are bringing Jeremiah, prophet of the last kings of Judah, back to life. wp-image-6235" height="200" width="459">These clay bullae (seal impressions), discovered by archaeologist Eilat Mazar during her excavations of the City of David, Jerusalem, bear the names of two royal ministers mentioned in the Bible’s story of Jeremiah, prophet of the Old Testament. Photos by Gaby Laron, The Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University.
The first of the clay bullae, which surfaced during Mazar’s excavation of what may be King David’s palace, bears the name “Yehuchal [or Jehucal] ben Shelemyahu [Shelemiah]” (pictured above left). The second was found in the First Temple period strata underneath what has been identified as Nehemiah’s Northern Tower, just a few yards away from the first, and reads “Gedalyahu [Gedaliah] ben Pashur” (pictured above right).
Our free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries brings together the exciting worlds of archaeology and the Bible! Learn the fascinating insights gained from artifacts and ruins, like the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored the sight of the blind man, and the Tel Dan inscription—the first historical evidence of King David outside the Bible. These two men are mentioned together in the Bible as ministers of King Zedekiah (597–587 B.C.E.). As the Babylonians closed in on Jerusalem during the last years of the First Temple period, Jeremiah, prophet to Judah’s last kings, advised Zedekiah and the people of the city to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar’s men so that their lives and city might be spared. But not everyone liked Jeremiah’s message, including Gedaliah son of Pashur and Jehucal son of Shelemiah. According to Jeremiah 38:1–13, the two ministers had Jeremiah thrown into a pit because they did not like the message of surrender he was preaching to the people of Jerusalem.
Biblical Archaeology Review readers have already been introduced to these tiny but amazing clay bullae in recent articles by Hebrew University archaeologist Eilat Mazar about her excavations in the City of David, Jerusalem,* but now visitors to Edmond, Oklahoma, can see them at their world premiere at the Armstrong Auditorium on the campus of Herbert W. Armstrong College. The Seals of Jeremiah’s Captors Discovered exhibit, which continues through October 2015, features the two clay bullae as well as dozens of ceramic artifacts from Jerusalem during the First Temple period—including figurines, royal seal impressions, and one of the largest ancient vessels ever found in Jerusalem.
Herbert W. Armstrong College provided support for Eilat Mazar’s City of David excavations.
Canaanite Religion at Tel Burna The mysterious building connected to Canaanite religion at Tel Burna Ellen White • 08/23/2015
Found inside an ancient building with connections to Canaanite religion, this figurine from Tel Burna is published for the first time in the September/October 2015 issue of BAR. The figurine depicts a standing nude female figure holding two small infants. Photo: Itzick Shai.
A mysterious building has been unearthed at Tel Burna in Israel—and it could be a temple for Canaanite religion. Tel Burna dig director Itzick Shai explains why the building’s purpose remains uncertain despite the clear connections to Canaanite religion in his Archaeological Views column “How Canaanites Worshiped” in the September/October 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. Tel Burna is located in the Shephelah region of Israel—the bread basket of the southern Levant. Some have argued that it is the most probable site for the Biblical town of Libnah (Joshua 10:29; 21:13; 2 Kings 8:22; 19:8; 23:31-32; 24:17-18; 2 Chronicles 21:10; Isaiah 37:8). Tel Burna is a large, flat-topped site whose fortifications can still be viewed in the modern period. Archaeological work conducted at Tel Burna shows that the site was a prominent city during the Late Bronze Age into the Iron Age and that during at least the earlier part of the Late Bronze Age, the residents practiced Canaanite religion.
The mysterious building discovered at Tel Burna dates to the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 B.C.E.) settlement, which is how we know that the cultic activity practiced was indeed Canaanite religion, even if it is unclear which of the Canaanite deities was being worshiped.
As the point where three of the world’s major religions converge, Israel’s history is one of the richest and most complex in the world. Sift through the archaeology and history of this ancient land in the free eBook Israel: An Archaeological Journey, and get a view of these significant Biblical sites through an archaeologist’s lens.
Excavation director Itzick Shai elaborates on this building in his BAR column: “The overall plan of the building is still unclear. It had a large courtyard of approximately 52 square feet. The outside walls of the building were built of large field stones, and the floor was largely composed of exposed bedrock. The finds from the courtyard suggest that the building may have been a temple. They seem at least to indicate that religious activities took place in the courtyard.”
According to Shai, there are many finds from the building that suggest that Canaanite religion was practiced in this building, including ceremonial masks, figurines and unique Cypriot votive vessels. It is, however, premature to label the building a temple.
“On the other hand,” Shai goes onto say, “large Cypriot pithoi and seals suggest that economic and administrative activities also took place [in this building]. The integration of cultic and economic functions is not unusual, however.”
Read more about Tel Burna and its mysterious Late Bronze Age building in the Archaeological Views column “How Canaanites Worshiped” by Itzick Shai in the September/October 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review
Woven from the fabric of many lives & two separate decades, a story of loss, guilt, & hope.
Look for it on amazon books.com, under Batya Casper. More info to follow.
Giant Discovery in Israel Uncovers Proof of Goliath’s Rule By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz August 16, 2015 , 1:09 pm 1 5 0 0Email 12Share “A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span.He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels.” (1 Samuel 17:4)
Remains of the city wall of the Philistine city of Gath. (Photo: Prof. Aren Maeir/ Bar Ilan University)
The return of giants is mentioned in various Jewish teachings as part of the process of redemption. A recent archaeological discovery indicates that Biblical stories of these famed beings are no longer mere myths.
Archaeologists in Israel have uncovered what they believe to be the enormous gates of Gath, the city of Goliath. The story of Goliath the Giant (1 Samuel 17) is a Bible classic with a clear message for young and old. However, equally important and less studied, is the role of Goliath and the Philistines as the physical and ideological enemies of David and the Messianic dynasty.
A Bar Ilan University team of archaeologists estimate that the remains of the ancient Philistine city dates back to the 10th century BCE. Two inscriptions discovered at the site ad names similar to Goliath, giving more weight to their theory. The modern site, known today as Tell es-Safi, has been occupied almost continuously for nearly 5,000 years and is the focus of continuous archaeological excavations since 1899. Until now, it was not known that its iron-age remains were so extensive.
“We knew that Philistine Gath in the tenth to ninth century (BCE) was a large city, perhaps the largest in the land at that time,” excavation leader Professor Aren Maeir told Live Science. “These monumental fortifications stress how large and mighty this city was.”
Most scholars believe that Gath was besieged and laid to waste by Hazael, King of Aram Damascus, in 830 B.C., Maeir said.
The newly discovered gate is being hailed as one of the largest of its kind ever found. The gate is part of enormous and extensive fortifications, indicating the importance of the city. Archaeologists also found ironworks and a Philistine temple near the monumental gate, with some pottery. Examination of the pottery revealed both Philistine and Israelite influences, indicating there was more interaction between the two cultures than previously thought.
“This mirrors the intense and multifaceted connections that existed between the Philistines and their neighbors,” Maeir said.
As if the discovery of the giant gate wasn’t enough, archaeologists also found indications of a catastrophic earthquake in the 8th century BCE, in what the team says could be the disaster mentioned in the Book of Amos.
I want to share with you more materials on the Iran deal distributed by AIPAC to Capitol Hill this morning. This new memo (also included below) highlights former military officials who have announced their opposition to the deal and their grave concerns about its implications.
On Tuesday, congressional offices also received an important AIPAC analysis underscoring the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran, and emphasizing that a congressional rejection of this deal will enable the United States to maintain economic pressure and work toward a better deal.
I also want to be sure you’ve seen these important stories:
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) announces opposition to the deal
Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings announced today that he will oppose the Iran deal, stating that “in the end, the JCPOA allows Iran to remain a nuclear threshold state while simultaneously reaping the benefits of relief from international sanctions.” He also highlighted several specific areas of concern, and noted that, “We must maintain a strong sanctions regime — to do otherwise is to give up our leverage.” Click here to read Rep. Hastings’ full statement.
Rep. Brad Ashford (D-NE) says Iran deal “not good enough”
Congressman Brad Ashford also declared his opposition to this deal. In public remarks yesterday, Rep. Ashford said, “This deal is not good enough for Israel, not good enough for the United States of America, not good enough for the Middle East, and not good enough for the world.” Click here to read more about Rep. Ashford’s position.
Prof. Orde Kittrie op-ed: “Congress Can Rewrite the Iran Deal”
In an important piece featured in The Wall Street Journal, Prof. Orde Kittrie highlights several examples of congressional modifications to international treaties. “The Iran nuclear deal could be significantly improved by a supplementary agreement containing amendments and understandings designed to mitigate the deal’s key gaps and ambiguities regarding verification and compliance. This step would be consistent with the Constitution, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act and past U.S. diplomatic practice, and would be no surprise to the international community.” Click here to read full piece.
Please continue to reach out to members of Congress by email and phone, and urge them to oppose this deal.
Southern Pacific Regional Director
Former Military Officials
Oppose the Iran Deal
Many former military officials have come out in opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Below are a few select quotes.
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. (Ret.) Hugh Shelton (center), former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn (left), and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Adm. (ret.) James Stavridis (right) are among the many former U.S. military leaders that have come out against the JCPOA.
“A regime that can’t be trusted with the lives of its own people can’t be trusted with a weak nuclear deal. The deadly consequences of such an agreement will not come 10 years from now when Iran has the acknowledged ability to launch a nuclear weapon; they will come as soon as the current regime is granted legitimacy on the international stage and gains economic or political leverage over democratic nations, which will happen as soon as their coffers are filled with unfrozen assets and the oil flows unfettered.”
– Gen. (ret.) Hugh Shelton, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1997-2001), Op-Ed in the Miami Herald, August 6, 2015
“I think the top [issue] is the verification regime, which is starting to roughly resemble Swiss cheese…you can drive a truck through some of the holes. I am very concerned about that.” – Adm. (ret.) James Stavridis, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander (2009-2013), Interview on MSNBC, July 29, 2015
“There are so many things that Iran has been gifted right now with this unbelievable deal. I mean, it's far more than just nuclear issues. I mean, it goes into everything that Iran is going to be capable of doing. And I'm going to tell you. When they receive this $150 billion check essentially I am really concerned about what kind of behavior they are going to continue to display.”
– Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn, former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (2012-2014), interview on Fox News, July 15, 2015
“I'm also concerned about our failure to demand an accurate accounting of the possible military dimensions of the Iranian program…It's not just what they may have done in the past to position themselves with regard to weaponization. The Iranians have been stiffing the IAEA for years on this issue. Now, we are going to rely on the IAEA for verification of this new agreement. After seemingly having taught the Iranians that if you stiff these guys enough, the requirement to concede will go away.”
– Gen. (ret.) Michael Hayden, former Director of the National Security Agency (1999-2005) and Central Intelligence Agency (2006-2009), Statement before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, July 14, 2015
“We guarantee Iran will have a nuclear weapon capability, and just as important, we guarantee they will have the most modern conventional weapons which could jeopardize our position in the Persian Gulf.”
– Adm. (ret.) James Lyons, former Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet (1985-1987), Times Square Rally, July 30, 2015
“This nuclear deal will fund and empower [Qassem] Suleimani to boost the Quds Force’s reign of terror and its campaign against American friends and interests in the region. For a deal that is putatively focused on just Iran’s nuclear program, this empowerment of Iran’s terrorist in chief is inexplicable.”
– Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Barbero, The Weekly Standard, August 2, 2015. Lt. Gen. Barbero served three combat tours in Iraq, including serving as the senior operations officer during the surge.
Israel’s Heart for Peace At Hadassah Medical Center, a mixed team of Israeli and Palestinian cardiologists has cared for 607 Palestinian children since 2005, at no charge. By Abigail Klein Leichman August 5, 2015, 8:31 am Prof. Azaria JJT Rein, head of pediatric cardiology at Hadassah and cofounder of A Heart for Peace, tending a Palestinian patient. Photo courtesy of A Heart for Peace
“We delivered the baby and implanted a pacemaker immediately. She went home two or three weeks later and she’s healthy,” says Prof. Azaria JJT Rein, head of pediatric cardiology at Hadassah and cofounder of A Heart for Peace, a partnership with Hadassah for the care of Palestinian children suffering from congenital heart diseases.
“We have many similar stories, but this one is especially dramatic,” Rein tells ISRAEL21c.
Since its founding in 2005, A Heart for Peace’s mixed team of Israeli and Palestinian doctors has cared for 607 Palestinian children, 20 percent of them from Gaza and 80% from Palestinian-administered areas of the West Bank.
An apolitical organization, A Heart for Peace has trained five Palestinian doctors to perform echocardiograms and/or catheterizations, 197 general practitioners to do early screenings, one technician each in echocardiography and stress-test and Holter electrocardiography, and one genetic counselor.
The need for genetic counseling is an essential preventative measure because one out of every two Arab marriages is consanguineous, causing a rate of congenital heart malformations three times higher than in the general population.
Half the cost of every hospitalization is borne by the medical center and half by the organization, which is incorporated in France. On average, each child’s bill comes to about $15,000.
Nobody to take care of them
Rein explains the need for the program ironically resulted from the Oslo Accords signed by the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1993. Until the accord put many Arab areas of the West Bank under Palestinian control with military checkpoints at the borders, Hadassah took care of West Bank Arab children with funding from humanitarian organizations and sometimes even from the Israel Defense Forces.
“But after Oslo there was nobody to take care of them anymore, so we tried to find a way,” says Rein, who moved to Israel from France in 1968 and trained in his specialty at Harvard University.
A Heart for Peace took shape at the initiative of another French immigrant physician, Dr. Muriel Haim.
“Every child has the right to care, and when I heard from Prof. Rein in 2005 that many Palestinian children suffering from congenital cardiopathy were dying because they had no access to heart surgery in the West Bank, I decided in cooperation with him and Hadassah to provide cardiac surgery for those children. It is as simple as that,” Haim tells ISRAEL21c.
Pediatric cardiologist Dr. Julius Golender preparing a Palestinian baby brought from Hebron by A Heart for Peace for a heart ultrasound at Hadassah Medical Center. Photo by Ron Krumer/Hadassah In cooperation with Palestinian-run hospitals and health clinics, as well as the United Nations, A Heart for Peace began by arranging to take one child per week. The number and scope quickly grew much larger.
The system is set up so that medical personnel in Gaza or the West Bank can consult with Rein and his team about children who may need advanced cardiac care. They share data over mobile applications like WhatsApp.
‘Thank you with all our heart’
If transfer is indicated, paperwork is filed with the Palestinian and Israeli authorities to allow passage for the child and caregiver (usually the mother or grandmother) to Hadassah or sometimes to the children’s hospital at Sheba Tel Hashomer Medical Center or to Makassed Islamic Hospital in Jerusalem. From the Israeli border, ambulance transport is handled by Magen David Adom, the Israeli Red Cross.
No child has ever been prevented from coming for treatment, says Haim, and in case of extreme emergency the transfer can be accomplished within two and a half hours.
Some patients, like the Gazan newborn mentioned above, start life in Hadassah because of conditions detected in utero. Saleh, for example, had his first heart surgery at birth in 2013 and came back to Hadassah a few months later for a nine-hour operation.
Saleh is now a healthy preschooler. His parents bring him for regular checkups to a pediatric cardiology clinic in Ramallah that was established by A Heart for Peace in 2012 and is now managed independently by Palestinians trained by the organization. This year, A Heart for Peace opened a pediatric cardiology clinic in Hebron, also hoped to become autonomous.
Saleh’s parents sent a letter of appreciation to A Heart for Peace. “Thanks to you, our life shines every day. Thank you for the hope you gave us. We thank you with all our heart for what you have done for us and for all that you do for all the other unhappy families such as ours,” they wrote.
Rein explains that many Arab families suspect that if they go to an Israeli hospital they will be killed for their harvestable organs. “There are at least 600 families who look at us now not as ‘bad Israelis’ but as people who did something good for them,” he says. “Maybe they don’t love us, but they are not afraid of us.”
Haim agrees: “Ten years on, peace has not yet been achieved, but these children are the living proof that cooperation does exist between Israeli and Palestinian doctors in Jerusalem and the West Bank. This cooperation continues to surprise the numerous visitors, both politicians and journalists, who come to discover peace in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.”
The only common enemy is heart disease
A Heart for Peace also provides mobile equipment for diagnosis and post-op care in the territories. Screenings for heart malformations take place twice a week in the West Bank, and educational presentations are offered to Palestinian families in an effort to reduce the risk of congenital cardiopathology.
“The beneficiaries are not only the children, the women and the Palestinian families, as well as the trained doctors, but also the Israeli and Palestinian people who get to know each other better,” say Haim.
Rein says the seven Israeli and two Palestinian participating doctors enjoy warm relationships during and after work hours. The only common enemy, he says, is heart disease.
For more information, click here.
Tel Burna 2015: Area A2—A Judahite Administrative Building? Chris McKinny • 08/04/2015
<< Back to Field Notes 2015
The Tel Burna Archaeological Project is exposing a Canaanite town in the Shephelah region of Israel believed by some scholars to be Biblical Libnah. Below, Tel Burna staff member Chris McKinny discusses the excavation of a possible Judahite administrative building.
Overview of the 2015 excavation areas at Tel Burna. Photo: Courtesy Tel Burna Archaeological Project.
Area A2 is located on the summit of the tell at Tel Burna near the center of the square-shaped Iron II fortified town. A2 has been excavated since the beginning of the project and is supervised by Debi Cassuto. In past seasons, we uncovered the remnants of a large structure that possessed a stone-paved courtyard. This building, which we initially thought was of the so-called “four-room” house type, is well dated to the eighth century B.C.E. based on the abundance of Iron IIB finds, including LMLK seal impressions (impressions bearing the Hebrew letters lmlk--lemelech, or “belonging to the king”—which are typical to the reign of Hezekiah of Judah) and Judahite Pillared Figurines. It also appears that the building was adapted and re-used during the seventh century B.C.E. (Iron IIC) and perhaps the Persian period. When we started this season, we hoped to uncover more of this large structure to the south and west, but after four weeks of excavating, it seems that either the south wall was not preserved or that the building is much larger than we had initially reasoned. We will have to investigate this question in future seasons. Debi Cassuto, Area A2 supervisor. Photo: Courtesy Tel Burna Archaeological Project.
Although we ended up with more questions than answers with regard to the architecture, we had some very nice finds in Area A2. We added two more LMLK seal impressions and a nice fragment of a zoomorphic figurine and a few more fragments of the Judean Pillar Figurine type. Additionally, we found more traces of Persian imports (Attic ware) that indicate that the area around the large central building was used from the eighth–fifth centuries B.C.E. (although this may have been intermittent).
Dr. Kyung-Chul Park (Hanshin University) after excavating the Iron II zoomorphic figurine from A2. Photo: Courtesy Tel Burna Archaeological Project.
Area A2, supervised by Debi Cassuto, after the 2015 season. Photo: Courtesy Tel Burna Archaeological Project.
These layers provide a nice mini-parallel to the stratigraphic picture of the large palatial structure at nearby Lachish, which was in use during the eighth century B.C.E./destroyed by Sennacherib in 701 B.C.E., re-used in the seventh century B.C.E./destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E., and re-used as a Persian administrative center in the following period. The synthesis between these two sites illustrates the fortification/administrative system of the Judahite Shephelah during the Iron II. Lachish and Azekah seem to have functioned as the key administrative centers, which were linked to smaller fortified towns such as Tel Burna (Biblical Libnah?). This reality is hinted at in the Bible in Jeremiah 34:7, which reads, “When the army of the king of Babylon [Nebuchadnezzar] was fighting against Jerusalem and against all the cities of Judah that were left, Lachish and Azekah; for these were the only fortified cities of Judah that remained”
and in Lachish Letter 4 (lines 6–12), which states,
“Then it will be known that we are watching the (fire-)signals of Lachish according to the code which my lord gave us, for we cannot see Azekah.”1
It is worth noting that both of these sites can be seen from the summit of Tel Burna (i.e., Area A2).
Chris McKinny is the supervisor of Area B1 at Tel Burna. Chris is a Ph.D. candidate at Bar Ilan University and an adjunct professor at The Master’s College. To follow his research, visit his academia.edu page.
Author Batya Casper.