After all the attention surrounding the recent “David’s Palace” announcement, here are details on some other finds from the final season at Kh. Qeiyafa. Because I have worked as a volunteer at the site for five years running, the Qeiyafa archaeological staff has graciously given me permission to post these in advance of official reports.
As reported from the dig, I worked in a new spot (“Area W”) down the slope a bit from the ancient city. Area W is an ancient building that was initially thought to be a military watchtower. It is located on the western slope of its hill. Our excavations revealed it to be an agricultural tower for pressing olives, crushing grapes, etc. The pottery we found dates the structure to the period of King Josiah, during the latter half of the 7th century B.C. This is some 350 years +/- after the period of David and Solomon and just a few decades before the destruction of Judah by the Babylonian Empire.
An agricultural tower from the later 7th century B.C. We found storage jars and other vessels, but no domestic pottery. This suggests nobody actually lived here. The building seems to have been a public one, possibly used by area farmers/vintners during harvest season. (Photo by Luke Chandler)
Isaiah mentions this kind of tower:
My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it. (Isa. 5:1b-2)
An agricultural installation carved into the bedrock inside the building. Besides the round hole there are circular and rectangular impressions carved into the bedrock. Fruit was crushed here and the juice/oil flowed into a vessel sitting in the round hole. (Photo by Luke Chandler)
The pottery assemblage included several rosette handles. Large storage jars were stamped with these on the handle to mark government property such as olive oil or wine. Judah had a tradition of stamping the handles of government-owned storage jars with the phrase LMLK (“belonging to the king”) since at least the late-8th century BC, the time of King Hezekiah. In the latter half or latter third of the 7th century BC, in the time of Josiah, these kinds of jars were stamped with a rosette flower (KOCH/LIPSCHITS 2013). The presence of several rosette handles helps us to date the tower and suggests some portion of this tower’s production was designated for government use.
One of several rosette handles found in and around the Area W tower. (Photo by Luke Chandler)
This tower appears to have been constructed less than 100 years after Isaiah penned those words. The Area W tower at Qeiyafa provides us a near-contemporary example of what Isaiah and others in his time would think of when reading/hearing those words of Isa. 5:2.
We also found a small idol. It may be the broken torso of an Asherah, a fertility goddess mentioned numerous times in the Bible. Although idols such as Asherah were prohibited in the Law of Moses, Israel and Judah joined other Canaanite peoples in Asherah worship from the time of the Judges until the end of the kingdom period.
If we only found the torso, why would we suggest it is the figurine is an Asherah? As it turns out, Asherah has a pretty standard pose.
An Asherah figurine. Notice the pose for this fertility goddess. Many Asherah statutes have been found with this standard look. (Courtesy of the Louvre)
Compare the intact statue in the photo with the broken torso from our square in the photo below.
So was the figurine broken by accident or was it an intentional destruction? (Josiah’s religious reforms described in 2 Kings 23?)
These were a few of the more interesting finds from my area this year. Stay tuned and I’ll post something more soon.
The possible Asherah figurine from Area W near Khirbet Qeiyafa. Though it appears to be of cruder workmanship, it is a standard pose for this goddess. (Photo by Luke Chandler. Used with permission by the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation.)