King David’s Palace at Khirbet Qeiyafa?

In a press release today, the Israel Antiquities Authority reports that the excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa have unearthed a palace of King David, along with a storehouse.

Here’s some of what the release has to say:

Today (Thursday) the excavation, which was conducted over the past seven years, is drawing to a close. According to Professor Yossi Garfinkel and Sa’ar Ganor, “Khirbet Qeiyafa is the best example exposed to date of a fortified city from the time of King David. The southern part of a large palace that extended across an area of c. 1,000 sq m was revealed at the top of the city. The wall enclosing the palace is c. 30 m long and an impressive entrance is fixed it through which one descended to the southern gate of the city, opposite the Valley of Elah. Around the palace’s perimeter were rooms in which various installations were found – evidence of a metal industry, special pottery vessels and fragments of alabaster vessels that were imported from Egypt. The palace is located in the center of the site and controls all of the houses lower than it in the city. From here one has an excellent vantage looking out into the distance, from as far as the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Hebron Mountains and Jerusalem in the east. This is an ideal location from which to send messages by means of fire signals. Unfortunately, much of this palace was destroyed c. 1,400 years later when a fortified farmhouse was built there in the Byzantine period”.

…The palace and storerooms are evidence of state sponsored construction and an administrative organization during King David’s reign. “This is unequivocal evidence of a kingdom’s existence, which knew to establish administrative centers at strategic points”, the archaeologists say. “To date no palaces have been found that can clearly be ascribed to the early tenth century BCE as we can do now. Khirbet Qeiyafa was probably destroyed in one of the battles that were fought against the Philistines circa 980 BCE. The palace that is now being revealed and the fortified city that was uncovered in recent years are another tier in understanding the beginning of the Kingdom of Judah”.

The identity of the ‘administration’ at Khirbet Qeiyafa has, to my knowledge, not yet been definitively proved. Nonetheless, this 10th century BC site in the Shephelah is very important for understanding the era. It will be interesting to see how discussion of this pans out.

The full press release can be read HERE. The release also includes a link to some nice hi-res images.

HT to Antonio Lombatti.

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Another Ancient Seal from Jerusalem (c.700 BC)

Another new seal (bulla) from Jerusalem has recently been found, although this one is much older. This seal comes from the First Temple Period—that is, the era of the Judean monarchy (Iron II). According Tzachi Zweig (Bar Ilan University), the small artefact was found in the debris within an ancient rubbish pit on the eastern slope of ancient Jerusalem (i.e. Ophel Hill).

The seal has two registers on it. While both are fragmentary, the lower register reads למלך (‘for the king’) quite clearly. The first register above it has בע on it, though there appear to be remnants of other letters on each side. A comparison with other seals and the placement of the legible letters makes it most likely that there were further letters. Gabriel Barkay (Bar Ilan University) reads the first register as גבען (‘Gibeon’)—a city just a few miles to the northwest of Jerusalem. Thus, he reads the entire seal as גבען למלך (‘Gibeon. For the King.’). He argues that it probably came from something that was paid to the king of Judah as tax from Gibeon.

Barkay’s analysis seems cogent, though it would be good to get some better resolution images to make sure of it. Nothing, however, beats a personal inspection of an artefact, as 2D images can hide critical features (such as the extra letter on the Tel Dan Inscription). The letters בע could also be part of the theophoric element בעל (‘Baal’), perhaps as part of someone’s name. This is less likely, though, given the currently available images. What appears to be a long ‘written’ line along the left broken edge of the seal would seem to match the letter nûn (נ) better than lamed (ל).

At first glance, the style of the letters seem to date this seal to c.700 BC. This would mean it comes from the reign of Hezekiah. Palaeography is, however, not an exact science, so we should give some leeway either side of that date. However, if this date is correct, it would be further artefactual evidence of the Judean tax system. We already have the many jar handles stamped with למלך (‘for the king’) from across Judah, and this seal would seem to belong to the same or close contemporary milieu.

A stamped jar handle (c.700 BC), reading .למלך.חברן ('For the king. Hebron.'), housed at the Jewish Museum, New York.

News of the find can be found here. The article is in Hebrew.