More on the Israelite (?) fortress of Khirbet Qeiyafa

There is new information on the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation. The site is along the frontier between Philistia and ancient Israel, and has been in the news for an as-yet-undeciphered inscription on a pottery fragment dating to the time of King David.

The five-line text has not yet been deciphered because the ink on 10 of the 50 letters has faded, making them invisible to the naked eye. The fragment will be examined next week at Megavision in Santa Barbara – a company that manufactures digital cameras – and Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, where sophisticated spectrum and ultra-violet fluorescence imaging may reveal the missing letters.

Some believe the site may be the biblical city of Shaaraim (1 Samuel 17:52). Shaaraim means “Two Gates”. This possibility gained attention when excavator Yosef Garfinkel discovered a second gate in the fortress wall last week.

“This is the only city from the Iron Age in this region ever found with two gates,” said Garfinkel as he clambered over the huge structure. “It was probably a mistake. It made the city more vulnerable. It might explain why it appears to have been settled only twice, for very short periods.”

A two-gated fortress would certainly fit the bill, but it is way to early to know if this is the city of Shaaraim.  It does seem certain the site dates to the time of the early Israelite monarchy. The inscription may or may not shed light on its exact identity. Whatever the result, this is a significant excavation. The lack of constant settlement gives hope that many of its artifacts have been undisturbed by later construction. Some scholars have suggested the shortage of current evidence from the time of David and Solomon indicates they did not exist, or that Israel was not the powerful kingdom described in the Bible.

Although it is not clear how the Sha’arayim relates to David, Garfinkel says finding a Judean city along the ancient highway to Jerusalem that appears to have been a fortress on the western border with the Philistines indicates a kingdom with a developed political and military organization that was powerful enough to include a major fortified city.

This article from the San Francisco Chronicle has more details, and is interesting read.

My previous post on this subject has links with more information and photos.


About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister in English and Spanish with the North Terrace Church of Christ and participates annually in archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke also leads tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
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4 Responses to More on the Israelite (?) fortress of Khirbet Qeiyafa

  1. barnea says:


    I am a codirector of the development project at Elah Fortress. I appreciate your caution in coming to conclusions. Prof Garfinkel is quite sure of this, for many reasons. Either way the dating is well grounded, from the pottery typology and the carbon-14 dating of burnt olive pits in the destruction layer context. Dr Haggai Misgav is hard at work on reading the ostracon. We all await further developments. We will also be preserving and restoring the first gate so the public can walk through it.

    I just want to add that we will be taking volunteers to excavate this summer. the main targets are the two gate areas. You can contact us through the websites of Foundation Stone and Hebrew University.


    Barnea Levi Selavan

  2. David Lopez says:

    Perhaps I could be your Brody? Thanks to you I know about ostracon, tells (sp?) and bone boxes. “Does anyone here speak English?”


    David “short-round” Lopez

  3. Pingback: Khirbet Qeiyafa Update and Video « Luke Chandler

  4. lukechandler says:

    David “short-round”,
    I think it would be perfect if you were my Sallah. I could honestly say, “That car belonged to my brother-in-law.”

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