Other Khirbet Qeiyafa Discoveries: A Tower and an Idol

After all the attention surrounding the recent “David’s Palace” announcement, here are details on some other finds from the final season at Kh. Qeiyafa. Because I have worked as a volunteer at the site for five years running, the Qeiyafa archaeological staff has graciously given me permission to post these in advance of official reports.

As reported from the dig, I worked in a new spot (“Area W”) down the slope a bit from the ancient city. Area W is an ancient building that was initially thought to be a military watchtower. It is located on the western slope of its hill. Our excavations revealed it to be an agricultural tower for pressing olives, crushing grapes, etc. The pottery we found dates the structure to the period of King Josiah, during the latter half of the 7th century B.C. This is some 350 years +/- after the period of David and Solomon and just a few decades before the destruction of Judah by the Babylonian Empire.

An agricultural tower from the later 7th century B.C. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

An agricultural tower from the later 7th century B.C. We found storage jars and other vessels, but no domestic pottery. This suggests nobody actually lived here. The building seems to have been a public one, possibly used by area farmers/vintners during harvest season. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Isaiah mentions this kind of tower:

My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it. (Isa. 5:1b-2)

An agricultural installation carved into the bedrock inside the building. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

An agricultural installation carved into the bedrock inside the building. Besides the round hole there are circular and rectangular impressions carved into the bedrock. Fruit was crushed here and the juice/oil flowed into a vessel sitting in the round hole. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The pottery assemblage included several rosette handles. Large storage jars were stamped with these on the handle to mark government property such as olive oil or wine. Judah had a tradition of stamping the handles of government-owned storage jars with the phrase LMLK (“belonging to the king”) since at least the late-8th century BC, the time of King Hezekiah. In the latter half or latter third of the 7th century BC, in the time of Josiah, these kinds of jars were stamped with a rosette flower (KOCH/LIPSCHITS 2013). The presence of several rosette handles helps us to date the tower and suggests some portion of this tower’s production was designated for government use.

One of several rosette handles found in and around the Area W tower. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

One of several rosette handles found in and around the Area W tower. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

This tower appears to have been constructed less than 100 years after Isaiah penned those words. The Area W tower at Qeiyafa provides us a near-contemporary example of what Isaiah and others in his time would think of when reading/hearing those words of Isa. 5:2.

We also found a small idol. It may be the broken torso of an Asherah, a fertility goddess mentioned numerous times in the Bible. Although idols such as Asherah were prohibited in the Law of Moses, Israel and Judah joined other Canaanite peoples in Asherah worship from the time of the Judges until the end of the kingdom period.

If we only found the torso, why would we suggest it is the figurine is an Asherah? As it turns out, Asherah has a pretty standard pose.

An Asherah figurine. (Courtesy of the Louvre)

An Asherah figurine. Notice the pose for this fertility goddess. Many Asherah statutes have been found with this standard look. (Courtesy of the Louvre)

Compare the intact statue in the photo with the broken torso from our square in the photo below.

So was the figurine broken by accident or was it an intentional destruction? (Josiah’s religious reforms described in 2 Kings 23?)

These were a few of the more interesting finds from my area this year. Stay tuned and I’ll post something more soon.

The Asherah figurine from Area W near Khirbet Qeiyafa. Though it appears to be of cruder workmanship, it is clearly the standard pose for this goddess. (Photo by Bob Henry)

The possible Asherah figurine from Area W near Khirbet Qeiyafa. Though it appears to be of cruder workmanship, it is a standard pose for this goddess. (Photo by Luke Chandler. Used with permission by the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation.)


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 2013 Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation, Ancient Architecture, Biblical Archaeology, General Archaeology, Israel, Khirbet Qeiyafa, New Discoveries and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Other Khirbet Qeiyafa Discoveries: A Tower and an Idol

  1. Hi Luke,

    Was the figurine fragment found in the the 7th century B.C. tower context?

    While not in any sense an area of speciality for me, I’d be hesitant to say it is an Asherah or related to the very common female Judean Pillar Figurines for the obvious reason: the figurine has no breasts. The breasts were a defining feature on the Asherah figurines and especially so on the Judean Pillar Figurines found mainly in the Kingdom of Judah.

    Have you explored the connection to male Hittite figurines or other male warrior figurines from the Mediterranean? You can find a similar pose on male warrior figurines from Iron Age Crete if my memory serves me correctly as as more ancient warrior pose figurines among the Syro-Hittites.

    • lukechandler says:

      It was found in the C7 context. At the time we were all referring to it as an Asherah. Now that the season is a wrap, perhaps the staff is exploring the avenues you mention. If a different interpretation emerges, I’ll post the correction. I appreciate the comment, Peter.
      – Luke

      • So late Iron I-early Iron IIA stratum (or strata if new stratification sequence…?). Thanks for the updates.

      • lukechandler says:

        Iron IIc, actually. The area W tower dates to latter C7. It’s about 120-150 meters down the slope from the Iron I/II city and appears to have no connection to Qeiyafa proper.

  2. G.M. Grena says:

    Thanks for sharing all this with us, Luke! Although “rosette flower” is a common term for these, it is far more likely that they represent lights than plants (rays instead of petals), which would make them a direct descendant of the 2-winged LMLK icons. But bear in mind that my remarks are never the product of competent scholarship.

    • lukechandler says:

      Thanks for your insights. Very interesting, especially with the continuity from the LMLK stamps you mention. However, if your work, in general, cannot seriously be considered competent scholarship then we can just pass over the substance and move on, right? Right?

      Thanks always for commenting, and best wishes.
      – Luke

  3. In the 2007-2008 excavation report, p.39 one can see what Dagan describes an enclosing wall that touches the walls of Qeiyafa. It would appear that the structure you dug is within the enclosing wall. Garfinkel and Ganor debated between themselves as to whether or not there was a “lower city”. In the Book of Joshua, when describing the 14 cities of Judah in the Shephela terms like “vechatzreihem” (their enclosures) is used. It is possible that the features being discussed are describing walled cities and their environs. Luke, did this season’s excavation reveal any stratigraphy either before or after the C7 period? (As usual – thanks for posting your insightful and informative snippets of the past seasons’ results).

    • lukechandler says:

      There was no indication of pre/post C7 pottery while I was there. We went to bedrock in the building and just outside the eastern wall, an area that turned out to be loaded with broken pottery. (A dump?) I had to leave the dig a couple of days before the square was closed out, but unless something changed the Area W building showed nothing apart from the one period. If I learn something new, I’ll be sure to share!

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