A City of David’s Kingdom? New Carbon-14 results from Khirbet Qeiyafa

A new article has been published on new radiocarbon dating from Khirbet Qeiyafa, an Iron Age site overlooking the Elah Valley. It happens to be in the same location, as described in 1 Samuel 17, where David slew Goliath. Discoveries from recent excavations have introduced a wealth of fresh data into study of early Israelite/Judahite society.

If you have ever wondered how Carbon-14 dating works or how precise it truly is, you will find this article illuminating. If you are interested in biblical studies or the debate over the development of the early Israelite/Judahite kingdoms, this is relevant reading. 

The article is available for download here: Garfinkel et al. 2015 Qeiyafa second C14 project.

Here is the abstract:

Seventeen samples of burnt olive pits discovered inside a jar in the destruction layer of the Iron Age city of Khirbet Qeiyafa were analyzed by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating. Of these, four were halved and sent to two different laboratories to minimize laboratory bias. The dating of these samples is ~1000 BC. Khirbet Qeiyafa is currently the earliest known example of a fortifed city in the Kingdom of Judah and contributes direct evidence to the heated debate on the biblical narrative relating to King David. Was he the real historical ruler of an urbanized state-level society in the early 10th century BC or was this level of social development reached only at the end of the 8th century BC? We can conclude that there were indeed forti ed centers in the Davidic kingdom from the studies presented. In addition, the dating of Khirbet Qeiyafa has far-reaching implications for the entire Levant. The discovery of Cypriot pottery at the site connects the 14C datings to Cyprus and the renewal of maritime trade between the island and the mainland in the Iron Age. A stone temple model from Khirbet Qeiyafa, decorated with triglyphs and a recessed doorframe, points to an early date for the development of this typical royal architecture of the Iron Age Levant.

There is another new article relating to the Qeiyafa discoveries that I will post soon. I am currently en route to Ireland but will upload the other article after arrival.

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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 in English and Spanish with the North Terrace Church of Christ and participates annually in archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke also leads tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
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2 Responses to A City of David’s Kingdom? New Carbon-14 results from Khirbet Qeiyafa

  1. pithom says:

    I really don’t think anyone disputes the ~1000 BC dating of Qeiyafa. The question of which larger political entity it belonged to, however, is still something of a mystery. It might have belonged to Gibeon, but that’s not certain. The Valley of Elah stories in the Bible might have something to do with it.

  2. LukeChandler says:

    Finkelstein has actually disputed the ca. 1000 BC date because the original radiocarbon tests were averaged from olive pits discovered in multiple loci. The pits were not laid down in the same place, so it is conceivable some were deposited years (decades?) apart from others. Finkelstein argued those kinds of samples must not be averaged but interpreted to show the span of activity at the site, from the earliest possible C14 date to the latest. This approach would yield a habitation period from shortly after 1100 BC up to as late as 915 BC, more than a century and a half. Any Iron IIa markers could conceivably be assumed to date from the mid-late 10th century in support of the Low Chronology. The 1000 BC date would have little or no relevance in the Chronology debate.

    This new article is based on a new sample of olive pits that all came from the same context. They were found in a storage jar located in an Iron Age destruction layer, suggesting they were deposited at the time of the city’s destruction. Since they clearly date from the same event, they can be averaged to determine the date of the city’s destruction. This methodology matched the results of the previous dating results and contradicts Finkelstein’s proposal that the site could have been inhabited throughout much/most of the 10th century. Based on these new radiocarbon results, any markers for Iron IIa cannot be placed later than the early 10th century.

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