What Did We Find at Khirbet Qeiyafa This Summer?

Back on July 15, in the middle of this year’s Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, I wrote about the potential of some new finds:

Best case scenario: A couple of things have been found that could add entirely new dimensions to our site over several periods, including the early Iron Age (ca. time of King David). One find could potentially impact our understanding of David’s kingdom, depending on what more is learned through excavation.

Alternate scenario: A couple of things have been found that are not as grand as we hoped for, but are still exciting and add new dimensions to our site over several periods, including the early Iron Age.

At this point things generally point to the “alternate scenario” – which is still a good thing. (Few finds result in a “best case scenario” interpretation. How many “extraordinary” things really exist at any one site?) I will use a few posts to highlight some of our finds during the 2010 season at Khirbet Qeiyafa.

Note: all “Iron Age” finds are from the Iron IIa period, the time of King David in the Bible.

First up…

This Iron Age room was uncovered in Area C, near the southern gate. The large columns are unique among the structures unearthed so far. The discovery of a chalk feeding trough led to its identification as an animal stable.

Iron IIa stable at Khirbet Qeiyafa. The feeding trough is to the left of the columns.

So far, this is the only building we’ve found that does not have a beaten earth (dirt) floor. Its pebble floor and large stone columns suggest it could have been a public building, indicating the existence of a central authority.

Was this a horse stable? If so, it would be exciting. Horses are expensive to obtain and to care for, and are not well-suited for farm work in the Judean foothills. Horses were best-suited for military use with chariots or to carry messengers. An Iron Age horse stable can indicate growing economic and military power. There is no mention of horses in Israel during the period of Saul son of Kish, but David’s administration had some (2 Samuel 15:1). Solomon is recorded as a major trader importer/exporter of Egyptian horses. He also had thousands in military service.

Upon further excavation the building does not seem to have been a horse stable. The size of the structure seems to befit donkeys or mules. There are plenty of references to donkeys and mules in Israel. David’s predecessor Saul was looking for lost donkeys when Samuel first encountered him. (1 Samuel 9:20) Mules were royal mounts during David’s administration. (2 Samuel 13:29; 1 Kings 1:38)

I departed the excavation a few days before this room was finished, so there could be more information of which I am not aware. If there is more I will learn of it in a few weeks at the ASOR Annual Meeting. Several papers on Khirbet Qeiyafa will be presented this year.

Another view of the stable. The chalk feeding trough is behind the columns, underneath a white tarp. At least one column appears to be missing, possibly a victim of later recycling for new construction.

More finds to come…

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 with the North Terrace Church of Christ and has participated in multiple archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke leads informative, meaningful tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
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7 Responses to What Did We Find at Khirbet Qeiyafa This Summer?

  1. barnea says:

    A certain Mr Chandler senior was portrayed in Dr Guy Steibel’s presentation today of the various periods of Elah Fortress. He explained the pot inserted into the wall as a magi for good fortune. This was at the 4th annual Israel Antiquities Authority- Hebrew University Jerusalem region conference.

    It was noted that a second Hellenistic period gate was found, and that a coin from 275 BCE was found.

    • lukechandler says:

      I passed this information on to Mr. Chandler senior, who seemed to enjoy the news quite well!

      A second Hellenistic period gate? That is interesting. I know the one in Area B. Any indication of the location of the second? I recall a mention this summer of an odd “gap” in the wall somewhere around the south side. Don’t know if that could be it.

  2. barnea says:

    they said to the east

    • lukechandler says:

      That sounds right now that you mention it. I heard about the opening on my first day or two but quickly stopped thinking about it with the ongoing work. I didn’t hear many details but recall that it was dated to a later period. That must be what Guy was referring to.

  3. afrankangle says:

    In terms of the dirt floor, as opposed to pebbled floor. Other than finding the wall’s bottom row, how do can you tell that the floor isn’t deeper?

    • lukechandler says:

      In almost every area where we’ve excavated, the bottom layer has dated to the “Iron IIa” period (10th century B.C.). A team this summer found one exception where the bottom layer dated to around 300 B.C. +/-. At this point no structure has been found at the site that predates the 10th century B.C.

      For the stable, I was not there the last three or four days of the dig but do know that objects on the pebble floor dated to the “Iron IIa” period. If there is an earlier floor there, it would be the first found on the site. They may have gone to the bedrock in one small part of the room just to be sure. If I learn of any find that predates the 10th century I’ll be sure to post it.

      Thanks for posting that question. One feature of archaeology is that it’s always incomplete. We can only analyze based on what we happen to find. We’ll never be able to find every single object/building/inscription that was produced in antiquity, so there is always the possibility, however small, of finding something that changes our understanding of things.

  4. Pingback: Report on Khirbet Qeiyafa — the Elah Fortress | Ferrell's Travel Blog

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