More Discoveries from Khirbet Qeiyafa (#3)

Architecture is a wonderful thing – a truth I did not properly appreciate until the recent season at Khirbet Qeiyafa. Yes, it’s always fun to uncover one-of-a-kind artifacts, but in archaeology the first thing you look for is the architecture. It defines your site. What are the important structures/buildings? Where are they located? Does a particular structure indicate power or poverty? Wealth or limited resources? Does a structure’s design help to identify and date it? Which structures may be rich with artifacts?

Qeiyafa’s architecture helps us know who built it. Some scholars have suggested Khirbet Qeiyafa was constructed by Philistines instead of Israelites. Why? Because they simply believe Israel lacked the capability to build large-scale fortresses in the early 10th century B.C. Many scholars have questioned whether a centralized Israelite government existed during King David’s time (early 10th century B.C. – Iron Age IIa). The construction of Qeiyafa’s massive Iron IIa walls required many resources and workers over many years. Only a powerful, centralized authority could provide this. If Judah/Israel had no effective central government during the Iron IIa period, the Philistines were the only ones in the area capable of building such a thing.

But what if Qeiyafa is the evidence of a centralized Judahite/Israelite government during David’s time? This is where its architecture becomes very interesting.

The city is surrounded by a casemate wall.  Domestic buildings (residences) are literally attached to the city casemate wall all around the site, and include the casemate spaces as rooms. You can see examples of this around both of Qeiyafa’s Iron IIa gates.


Casemate wall near the western Iron IIa gate. Notice how the thin walls of the residences adjoin the thicker casemate city walls. Each of these casemate sections includes an entrance to a residence at the top left. The houses use the casemates as additional living space. (Photo from Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation website - Hebrew University.)



The southern Iron IIa gate with casemates on both sides. (Evidence of later reconstruction is visible in the gate.) The casemates are used as rooms for the attached residences. This design - residence buildings abutting casemate walls - is unique to Judahite cities in the Iron Age. (Photo from Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation website - Hebrew University.)


In 2010 I helped to uncover more of this same architecture in another area of the site.


I am sitting in a partially-excavaed casemate entrance. The Iron Age floor level is another 2 to 3 feet below the surface. A partially-excavated residence wall is visible in the ground in front of my feet, next to the casemate entrance. Khirbet Qeiyafa appears to have a standardized design similar to three other 10th-century Judahite cities. This indicates centralized urban planning existed in Iron II Judah - pointing to a central governing authority. (Photo by Royce Chandler)



A residence/casemate entrance is visible in the foreground. An entrance for the next residence room/casemate is somewhat visible just behind the worker with the black shirt. Partially uncovered residence walls are visible in the ground near both entrances. This unique architectural design is not found outside of Judah. (Photo by Royce Chandler)


According to the Khirbet Qeiyafa archaeological staff, three other Iron Age Judahite sites – Tel Beersheba, Tel en-Nasbeh and Tel Beit Mirsim – have this same architectural feature: residences abutting a casemate wall. This urban concept is not found in Philistine or Canaanite cities, nor is it found in Israelite sites to the north.

Someone in Judah was building cities with a common blueprint during the time of the biblical King David. Khirbet Qeiyafa’s architecture indicates centralization in the tribe’s governance during the time of David. This is consistent with the biblical text, which records David reigning as king over Judah for 7-1/2 years before assuming the throne over the other tribes. (2 Samuel 2:4, 11; 5:5) Judah seems to have had an earlier start with centralized governance than the other tribes.

Architecture can have interesting implications, yes? It’s good to continue uncovering and observing more of Qeiyafa’s architecture to better understand its context.

My next post on Qeiyafa’s 2010 discoveries will involve my favorite. It was an unexpected and interesting find. Coming soon!


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.
This entry was posted in 2010 Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, Ancient Architecture, General Archaeology, Khirbet Qeiyafa and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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