Amazing Qeiyafa Find: Ancient Metal Wheelbarrow – still functional!

I have sat on this discovery since July of 2010, waiting for the excavators’ permission to post on this remarkable find from Khirbet Qeiyafa.

It was a typical late morning at the Qeiyafa dig on July 20. We had progressed past a Hellenistic level and into the 10th century B.C. (Iron IIa) level when Royce Chandler (my father) made a truly unique find for the second year in a row.

He uncovered part of a refined metal object in Area C that did not match the iron and bronze artifacts found in other squares. Royce notified the square supervisor and continued to excavate. It soon became apparent that Prof. Garfinkel should be summoned immediately. This artifact had no precedent in ancient Levantine material culture.

Royce Chandler examining his find after cleaning. It may have been used in Khirbet Qeiyafa's construction ca. 1000 B.C. The wheelbarrow shows its age but still proved to be functional. The quality of the metal work is a fresh argument for Israel's intellectual and technological development in the early Iron Age. A society capable of producing such wheelbarrows would certainly possess specialist guilds such as smiths, scribes, masons and engineers, all of which suggest security and urbanization resulting from a centralized government. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

This is the first provenanced Iron Age wheelbarrow discovered in the Levant. Our understanding of Israelite metallurgy in Iron IIa has so far been limited to small weapons and an occasional trinket. This find looks to rewrite textbooks on the period.

One may ask why this discovery was not announced earlier, especially during the Fall meetings in Atlanta (ASOR, SBL, et al.) The truth is that the archaeological team wanted to be careful with its research on what is an unprecedented find. No doubt Tel Aviv scholars would insist that the wheelbarrow dates no earlier than the mid-9th century B.C. No reason to add fuel to an already blazing fire.

Ironically, I was given permission to post this discovery on April 1st. Interesting choice of day.


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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6 Responses to Amazing Qeiyafa Find: Ancient Metal Wheelbarrow – still functional!

  1. Best laugh I’m likely to have all day.

  2. Jimmy Gee says:

    Wow!! I knew the people of that time were smart but this is amazing! Those minimalists will have something to chew on now. Great post (and VERY GOOD April Fools gag). 🙂

  3. ziv says:

    I hope you read this comment: (not connected to the fact that I also find heavy metal wonderful)

    I have stumbled upon this –

    Is it possible to check the now famous inscription found at Qeiyafa with Energetic X ray source? maybe this will help deciphering?

    And an additional question – could it be that by cleaning pottery with water
    you might have erased other inscriptions?

    Thanks in advance –

    • lukechandler says:

      That appears to be a great technology. I do not know how effective it would be for ink inscriptions such as the one from Qeiyafa. It was subjected to a number of high-tech scans/tests in late 2008. I don’t know how those would compare to the results of the X-ray scan discussed in your link. Perhaps that will happen at some point. The ostracon is currently on display in the Israel Museum, so it’s available almost any time for further tests.

      As for your other question, we discover vast quantities of dirty pottery every day. I do not know of an effective, affordable way to remove the dirt without using water. I’m certainly no expert on this, but here are my impressions. The ceramics are exposed to significant moisture in the ground over thousands of years, so a few hours soaking in a water bucket would probably have negligible effect. We found a single-letter inscription (possibly a ‘yod’) on the exterior of a shard in 2010. It was in pretty good shape, perhaps an indication of the ink’s durability. The brushes we use to remove the dirt could pose a risk to the ink. I believe it wise to stay alert during the cleaning process. Here is a timeline of events relating to the ostracon’s discovery in 2008. You can see that the excavators contacted a knowledgeable authority to ensure the best possible treatment of the ostracon when it was discovered.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Justin says:

    That’s an interesting find! Can you tell us what the wheel is made of?

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