Yossi Garfinkel recently presented finds from a cultic room unearthed at Khirbet Qeiyafa in 2010. He sent me some photos for this blog just before his presentation in Jerusalem. They are shown here with his permission.
Here is my own summary of what we know of Kh. Qeiyafa at this point. It was a planned fortress city constructed around the beginning of the 10th century B.C. – the time of David’s monarchy in the Bible. It sits at the border of ancient Judah and Philistia along the Elah Valley, where David fought Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. The population at Kh. Qeiyafa appears to have been Judahite for the following reasons:
- The city’s architecture is similar to other cities in Judah. It is different than that of the nearby Philistines, or even the northern tribes of Israel.
- Five seasons of excavation have yielded virtually no pig or dog bones. Pig and dog bones are common at Philistine and Canaanite sites but rare-to-nonexistent in Israel and Judah, who considered both animals to be unclean.
- The pottery at Qeiyafa is clearly not Philistine, even though ancient Gath is just a few miles away. It bears closer resemblance to Israelite and Judahite ceramics.
- Finger impressions on storage jars at Qeiyafa may be precursors to the later LMLK stamps that marked government property in the Kingdom of Judah.
- An inscription discovered at Qeiyafa in 2008 is believed by many to be Hebrew. The inscription’s language is clearly Semitic, not the Indo-European language of the Philistines.
- The city’s unique two-gate design leads the excavators to identify it as Shaaraim (Heb. – “two gates”). Joshua 15:36 lists Shaaraim as a city of Judah. 1 Chronicles 4 mentions it as a possession of Simeon, a tribe that existed in the midst of Judah.
Here are photos of the cultic (religious) room discovered in 2010. Human and animal figurines are common in Philistine, Canaanite and even northern Israelite cultic sites, but none were found in this room. These finds may offer a window into pre-Temple religion in Judah during David’s time.
Details on these finds have recently been published in Hebrew in the journal Qadmoniot. An English article was sent to BASOR (Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research) but it was reportedly rejected because the reviewer stated that an aniconic cult (religion with no icons/images) is not possible for that period. We will see how things develop as more data comes in.
Speaking of more data, Garfinkel announced the discovery of two additional cultic rooms at Qeiyafa from the 2011 excavation season. Garfinkel sent me this comment on our 2011 finds:
“In the two new cultic rooms various cultic objects were found, but no human or animal figurines. They confirm the results of the 2010 excavation season. The new cultic items are still under cleaning, restoration and documentation, so they will not be presented at the lecture.”
I helped to unearth one of the cultic rooms in 2011. It was certainly rich with finds, but as Garfinkel mentions we didn’t find any figurines or engraved images. Yossi plans to publish in the near future, so we should have access to more data soon.
Judah in the 10th century B.C. is comparatively sparse for archaeologists. These finds are filling in blanks in the archaeological narrative. These finds are consistent with the textual narrative we find in the Bible.