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