I am finishing my third day at the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation. I worked here for three weeks last year and decided I had to come back (with my wife’s blessing) for some more. Khirbet Qeiyafa is a fantastic site that has generated a lot of buzz in a short time.
Why is Qeiyafa important? In two very brief summaries:
- There has been little physical evidence of David and Solomon’s kingdom. Other kingdoms left physical traces of their power and wealth. Where are the traces of David and Solomon? Recent scholarship concluded that, due to the seeming lack of fortified cities and other evidence of central government, David and Solomon were only local chieftains with no power beyond their local region. Khirbet Qeiyafa has so far shown itself to be a powerfully fortified, centrally planned city of Judah from the time of David. This site provides the first direct physical evidence of the strong, centralized monarchy described in the Bible.
- In 2008 the excavation produced an inscription that may be the oldest Hebrew writing ever discovered. The ostracon (inscribed pottery fragment) dates to around 1000 B.C. – the time of King David. Translation of the inscription is difficult and disputed, but it provides evidence for literacy in Judah during the early United Monarchy. Contrary to the conclusions of some scholars, the Israelites had the capacity at that time to write psalms and religious documents, record history, etc.
By the way, David and Goliath fought right next to Khirbet Qeiyafa. King Saul’s camp may have been located on our actual site.
Khirbet Qeiyafa has gained a lot of attention!
- The New York Times devoted a full page to the site in the fall of 2008.
- National Geographic has become a sponsor of the excavation.
- Khirbet Qeiyafa was the focus of eight different presentations at the 2009 ASOR annual meeting. Most featured sites have only one or two presentations. Qeiyafa has six more presentations scheduled for this year’s meeting in November.
- Khirbet Qeiyafa will be featured this December in a NOVA television episode and in the National Geographic issue for that month.
- The BBC will be filming at our site tomorrow (Wednesday the 14th) as part of a documentary on the biblical King David.
There are many good excavations in Israel, but this one has some special qualities. It is a privilege to be part of this dig. I will be here until Friday, July 23rd. National Geographic’s sponsorship limits what I and others are allowed to show from the site, but I plan to post pictures and news as they become available.