Tag Archives: Khirbet Qeiyafa

Radiocarbon Dating Khirbet Qeiyafa and the Iron I-IIA Phases in the Shephelah: Methodological Comments and a Bayesian Model

A new essay by I. Finkelstein and E. Piasetzky, in Radiocarbon 57 (2015), 891–907.

This article discusses methodological issues related to the radiocarbon dating of Khirbet Qeiyafa, mainly the question of whether the site should be dated solely according to samples retrieved there or dated as part of a regional sequence of stratigraphically based ceramic typology phases. For the latter, we deploy the large number of 14C determinations now available for several sites in the Shephelah, which are located in close proximity to each other, in order to establish a Bayesian model for the absolute chronology of the Iron I–IIA phases in the region. We argue that the information assembled from six neighboring sites in the Shephelah pushes forward the date of Qeiyafa to the 10th century, a date later than the one the excavators estimated based on the more limited 14C information from the site alone.

The more you know. Give it a read.  They also comment on a recent article by Faust and Katz on Tel Eton.

Keith Whitelam: Further Reflection on the ‘Palace of David’ Discovery

On Facebook, Keith writes

The most sensational of all recent claims is the press release from the Israel Antiquities Authority that King David’s palace and storerooms have been found at Khirbet Qeiyafa. But within days of the announcement—eagerly picked up by those who see it as proof of the biblical picture of a Davidic kingdom and a decisive blow to the so-called minimalists—more sober assessments raise serious questions about the discoveries.

The claims fit the same pattern as we have seen with other announcements, such as the inscribed jar from Jerusalem, where all evidence is forced to fit into the dominant model of a Davidic kingdom. There is nothing to link the building to David, it is not clear that it is a ‘palace’, and the IAA release notes that “unfortunately, much of this palace was destroyed c. 1,400 years later when a fortified farmhouse was built there in the Byzantine period.” 

Even before this announcement, the site was being used to bolster the traditional claims about a centralized kingdom of David: “More recently, the excavation of a small, fortified town at Khirbet Qeiyafa, 20 miles from Jerusalem, has been interpreted as further proof that Jerusalem was the capital of a centralized state ruled by David. It is claimed that the town was inhabited by ‘Judaeans’. Yet there is nothing to link the site specifically to Jerusalem or other local towns. It is a prime example of the attempt to construct exclusive claims to the past, even when it is not clear what the make-up of the population was that inhabited the site or how it was connected to its local environment. Khirbet Qeiyafa looks like many small towns throughout the history of Palestine that have flourished for a short period of time and then disappeared from view.” (Rhythms of Time: Reconnecting Palestine’s Past, chapter 7).

Others have offered more sober reflections on the claims (thanks to Jim West for most of the links). In particular, Israel Finkelstein has raised the methodological problems involved in interpreting the site (http://www.academia.edu/1954502/Khirbet_Qeiyafa_An_Unsensational_Archaeological_and_Historical_Interpretation). Peter van der Veen points out that “we cannot possibly speak of proof as nowhere on any of the stones found in the “palace” (if this is what it was?) scribes engraved the sentence “made by King David”. If such inscriptions had been found, surely we would all know about it. It would be the 21st century sensation. But mute Syro-Palestine-Israelite archaeology hardly ever allows us to be that precise, even if I too would be very happy if indeed we could be more precise. Without such straightforward inscriptions found within the same level of occupation, which precisely tell us who was the builder king etc., we cannot possibly prove anything.” While David Willner has a much more scathing appraisal of the motivation behind such sensational claims (http://www.foundationstone.org/).

The political importance of the announcement should not be underestimated. Revealingly, the IAA states that “the exposure of the biblical city at Khirbet Qeiyafa and the importance of the finds discovered there have led the Israel Antiquities Authority to act together with the Nature and Parks Authority and the planning agencies to cancel the intended construction of a new neighborhood nearby and to promote declaring the area around the site a national park. This plan stems from the belief that the site will quickly become a place that will attract large numbers of visitors who will be greatly interested in it, and from it one will be able to learn about the culture of the country at the time of King David.” In true Orwellian style: ‘who controls the past
controls the future; who controls the present controls the past’.

“There is a long and continuing history of attempts to use archaeological discoveries—usually in the name of disinterested, academic scholarship—to bolster and shore up the Zionist foundation narrative. Invariably the interpretation of such discoveries ignores the rhythms of time.” (Rhythms of Time: Reconnecting Palestine’s Past, chapter 7).

A Second Inscription from Qeiyafa?

Joseph Lauer informs us that Luke Chandler writes

qeiyafaA few people have inquired about the new Khirbet Qeiyafa inscription discovered in the 2012 season. I asked Yossi Garfinkel about it last week when I drove up to Chattanooga (from Tampa!) to catch his presentation at Southern Adventist University. He said they have made good progress on it and may publish something in a few months. He wouldn’t release any details about it during his presentation but told me beforehand that the results are “very interesting.”

I saw the new inscription when it was found last summer. It is from the late-11th/early-10th century Iron Age level at Qeiyafa. It is readable. I’ll post details here as soon as they are released to the public.

Well that’s not much to go on.  A second inscription which is legible and ‘interesting’ which won’t be published for several months.    No, that’s not at all helpful.  (Though to be fair the first inscription wasn’t ‘all that’– being rather both insubstantial and subject to wide ranging readings).

Qeiyafa Replicas in Tennessee…

A new exhibit at Southern Adventist University’s Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum, The Battle over King David: Excavating the Fortress of Elah, will now present many of the finds from Khirbet Qeiyafa to the public for the first time. A team from Southern Adventist University has been excavating at the site in partnership with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem since 2009.

So says BAR (which I don’t get but a twitter friend does and he tweeted this exhibition- and since it’s just an hour and a half south of me I may well run down there in the next few weeks and check it out).

Unfortunately the artifacts on display are replicas and not the real deal.  Bummer.

A scale model of one of the gates will be on display in the exhibit (shown above), as well as a number of ceramic vessels, seals, coins and stamped jar handles. Replicas of the well-known Qeiyafa Ostracon and a small limestone shrine will also be on view (the original objects are being studied in Israel and were not available for loan).

Still- again – it just might be fun.  Here’s the SAU site.  And concerning Qeiyafa itself, there’s rather a lot here.

UPDATE:  I contacted the Museum concerning the dates of the exhibition and here is their reply-

“The Battle Over King David” exhibition will be on display through the end of April 2014. FYI, we have a few (3) replicas but the majority of the artifacts are borrowed from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

So that’s good to know!  Definitely makes it more worthwhile.

Arav Responds to Garfinkel

In a rollicking response to Garfinkel’s unjustified criticisms of Arav’s review.

I hesitated whether to respond to this ad hominem reply or not. Each “point” in the “18 points” purports to say how flawless the report on Khirbet Qeiyafa is and how unqualified I am to review it. In addition to this, I find it odd not to reply in the same journal that published my book review. However, with my humble skills, I would like to make some arguments.

And persuasive arguments follow.

‘Raiders of the Lost Relics’

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Matthew Kalman reports

On a hilltop overlooking the Elah Valley, about 15 miles southwest of Jerusalem, an ancient city is yielding archaeological finds that have reignited a debate about some of the Bible’s most colorful characters, including King David.

Qeiyafa, exaggerated claims, and the state of the field.  Give the piece a read.  Very nicely done.

James McGrath’s Great Roundup of Qeiyafa Posts and a Sage Observation by J.S.

I think he’s collected everything worth collecting and made some sensible comments along the way.  Give it a read.  We’ve also been discussing the discovery on the biblical studies list and Jonathan Stökl sagely observed that:

I agree that [that] this find poses the end of minimalist approaches to any text is ridiculous. It also does not challenge the Low Chronology (two topics that should, in my view, be kept separate). What it does show is that the people who lived on Tel Qeiyafa lived in a religious landscape (surprise!).

I would, however, want to be careful with using similar objects from the antiquities’ market when saying that they’re nothing special. We should not lower our standards of good evidence and suddenly rely on object that are not properly provenanced (unless these private collectors have proper evidence of where the objects were excavated). I would, therefore, agree with Aren Maeir that Garfinkel’s temple models are rather nice, and that they are important finds for Qeiyafa.

So let’s relax a little, and see what can be done with these for the interpretation of the site and *maybe* for a slightly wider area (in the moment I would think of Finkelstein’s and Fantalkin’s suggestion that a Norther Judean/Southern Israelite entity may be active here).

Jonathan Stökl
University College London

I couldn’t have said it better or more concisely.

Seth Sanders et al on the Qeiyafa Discovery

Seth (and some others) have some thoughts on possible unintended consequences of the Qeiyafa find.  It begins

Notes from a conversation between Seth Sanders, Matthew Suriano and Jacqueline Vayntrub.

“The difference between the new model shrines and others is that these come with a press kit.”

It is tempting to dismiss claims about the new discoveries as exaggerated, self-contradictory, or even fundamentalist. The newly discovered model shrine is somehow supposed to testify to both the biblical ban on graven images and the biblical Ark of the Lord–despite being festooned with birds and lions and bearing no striking resemblance to the account in Exodus. Footprints of King David, a glossy book about the finds available the day of the press conference, did not help to soften the impression of hasty sensationalism.

I sure hope he didn’t mean to imply that my posting of the Hebrew University press release was a tacit agreement with the claims of Garfinkel or even crypto-fundamentalism on my part.  Neither would be true.

[Ok, I asked and he didn’t mean to make any such implication.  Whew].

Thomas Römer and Yosef Garfinkel and Qeiyafa in Paris

Thomas Römer
Milieux Bibliques
Conférenciers invités

Yosef Garfinkel, Professeur à la Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israël) – Portable Shrines from Khirbet Qeiyafa and the Biblical Descriptions of Solomon Palace and Temple. Le mercredi 23 mai 2012, à 14h00.

Nifty.  I sure hope Duane Smith and others don’t mind that they are discussing it at a conference before it’s peer reviewed…

The Hebrew University Press Release on the Qeiyafa Discovery

Hebrew University archaeologist finds the first evidence of a cult in Judah at the time of King David, with implications for Solomon’s Temple

Jerusalem, May 8, 2012—Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, the Yigal Yadin Professor of Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, announced today the discovery of objects that for the first time shed light on how a cult was organized in Judah at the time of King David. During recent archaeological excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, a fortified city in Judah adjacent to the Valley of Elah, Garfinkel and colleagues uncovered rich assemblages of pottery, stone and metal tools, and many art and cult objects. These include three large rooms that served as cultic shrines, which in their architecture and finds correspond to the biblical description of a cult at the time of King David.

This discovery is extraordinary as it is the first time that shrines from the time of early biblical kings were uncovered. Because these shrines pre-date the construction of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem by 30 to 40 years, they provide the first physical evidence of a cult in the time of King David, with significant implications for the fields of archaeology, history, biblical and religion studies.

The expedition to Khirbet Qeiyafa has excavated the site for six weeks each summer since 2007, with co-director Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The revolutionary results of five years of work are presented today in a new book, Footsteps of King David in the Valley of Elah, published by Yedioth Ahronoth.


Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Prof. Yosef Garfinkel with a stone shrine model found at Khirbet Qeiyafa (Credit: Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Images of the new discoveries can be downloaded from http://bit.ly/garfinkel. Images must be credited to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Located approximately 30 km. southwest of Jerusalem in the valley of Elah, Khirbet Qeiyafa was a border city of the Kingdom of Judah opposite the Philistine city of Gath. The city, which was dated by 10 radiometric measurements (14C) done at Oxford University on burned olive pits, existed for a short period of time between ca. 1020 to 980 BCE, and was violently destroyed.

The biblical tradition presents the people of Israel as conducting a cult different from all other nations of the ancient Near East by being monotheistic and an-iconic (banning human or animal figures). However, it is not clear when these practices were formulated, if indeed during the time of the monarchy (10-6th centuries BC), or only later, in the Persian or Hellenistic eras.

The absence of cultic images of humans or animals in the three shrines provides evidence that the inhabitants of the place practiced a different cult than that of the Canaanites or the Philistines, observing a ban on graven images.

The findings at Khirbet Qeiyafa also indicate that an elaborate architectural style had developed as early as the time of King David. Such construction is typical of royal activities, thus indicating that state formation, the establishment of an elite, social level and urbanism in the region existed in the days of the early kings of Israel. These finds strengthen the historicity of the biblical tradition and its architectural description of the Palace and Temple of Solomon.

According to Prof. Garfinkel, “This is the first time that archaeologists uncovered a fortified city in Judah from the time of King David. Even in Jerusalem we do not have a clear fortified city from his period. Thus, various suggestions that completely deny the biblical tradition regarding King David and argue that he was a mythological figure, or just a leader of a small tribe, are now shown to be wrong.” Garfinkel continued, “Over the years, thousands of animal bones were found, including sheep, goats and cattle, but no pigs. Now we uncovered three cultic rooms, with various cultic paraphernalia, but not even one human or animal figurine was found. This suggests that the population of Khirbet Qeiyafa observed two biblical bans—on pork and on graven images—and thus practiced a different cult than that of the Canaanites or the Philistines.”

Description of the findings and their significance

The three shrines are part of larger building complexes. In this respect they are different from Canaanite or Philistine cults, which were practiced in temples—separate buildings dedicated only to rituals. The biblical tradition described this phenomenon in the time of King David: “He brought the ark of God from a private house in Kyriat Yearim and put it in Jerusalem in a private house” (2 Samuel 6).

The cult objects include five standing stones (Massebot), two basalt altars, two pottery libation vessels and two portable shrines. No human or animal figurines were found, suggesting the people of Khirbet Qeiyafa observed the biblical ban on graven images.

Two portable shrines (or “shrine models”) were found, one made of pottery (ca. 20 cm high) and the other of stone (35 cm high). These are boxes in the shape of temples, and could be closed by doors.

The clay shrine is decorated with an elaborate façade, including two guardian lions, two pillars, a main door, beams of the roof, folded textile and three birds standing on the roof. Two of these elements are described in Solomon’s Temple: the two pillars (Yachin and Boaz) and the textile (Parochet).

The stone shrine is made of soft limestone and painted red. Its façade is decorated by two elements. The first are seven groups of roof-beams, three planks in each. This architectural element, the “triglyph,” is known in Greek classical temples, like the Parthenon in Athens. Its appearance at Khirbet Qeiyafa is the earliest known example carved in stone, a landmark in world architecture.

The second decorative element is the recessed door. This type of doors or windows is known in the architecture of temples, palaces and royal graves in the ancient Near East. This was a typical symbol of divinity and royalty at the time.

The stone model helps us to understand obscure technical terms in the description of Solomon’s palace as described in 1 Kings 7, 1-6. The text uses the term “Slaot,” which were mistakenly understood as pillars and can now be understood as triglyphs. The text also uses the term “Sequfim”, which was usually understood as nine windows in the palace, and can now be understood as “triple recessed doorway.”

Similar triglyphs and recessed doors can be found in the description of Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 6, Verses 5, 31-33, and in the description of a temple by the prophet Ezekiel (41:6). These biblical texts are replete with obscure technical terms that have lost their original meaning over the millennia. Now, with the help of the stone model uncovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the biblical text is clarified. For the first time in history we have actual objects from the time of David, which can be related to monuments described in the Bible.

About the Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem was founded in 1918 by visionaries including Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber and Chaim Weizmann. Opened in 1925, the Hebrew University is located on three campuses in Jerusalem and a fourth in Rehovot. One of the world’s leading academic and research institutions, the Hebrew University serves more than 23,000 students from over 65 countries, and is consistently ranked among the top academic and research institutions worldwide. Forty percent of Israel’s civilian research emerges from the Hebrew University, which has been ranked 12th worldwide in biotechnology patent filings and commercial development. Faculty and alumni of the Hebrew University have won seven Nobel Prizes in the last decade.


Dov Smith, Hebrew University Foreign Press Liaison

02-5881641 / 054-8820860 (+972-54-8820860)


Orit Sulitzeanu, Hebrew University Spokesperson

02-5882910 / 054-8820016


Online: http://www.huji.ac.il

Via Joseph Lauer.  The announcement was noted earlier, briefly.

Unsensational Qeiyafa

A new essay by Finkelstein, I. and Fantalkin, A., titled Khirbet Qeiyafa: An Unsensational Archaeological and Historical Interpretation has just appeared in Tel Aviv 39/1: 38–63.

The Abstract-

The article deals with the finds at the late Iron I settlement of Khirbet Qeiyafa, a site overlooking the Valley of Elah in the Shephelah. It points out the methodological shortcomings in both field work and interpretation of the finds. It then turns to several issues related to the finds: the identity of the inhabitants, their territorial affiliation and the possibility of identifying Khirbet Qeiyafa with sites mentioned in the Bible and in the Shoshenq I list.

With many thanks to Alexander for sending along a copy. It’s a very, very persuasive argument they offer.

The Israel Antiquities Authority Preliminary Report on Khirbet Qeiyafa

The last paragraphs of which suggest

The Iron Age city had impressive architectural and material finds:

1. A town plan characteristic of the Kingdom of Judah that is also known from other sites, e.g., Bet Shemesh, Tell en-Nasbeh, Tell Beit Mirsim and Be’er Sheva‘. A casemate wall was built at all of these sites and the city’s houses next to it incorporated the casemates as one of the dwelling’s rooms. This model is not known from any Canaanite, Philistine or Kingdom of Israel site.

2. Massive fortification of the site, including the use of stones that weigh up to eight tons apiece.

3. Two gates. To date, no Iron Age cities with two gates were found in either Israel or Judah.

4. An open space for a gate plaza was left near each gate. In Area C an area was left open parallel to three casemates and in Area D, the area was parallel to four casemates.

5. The city’s houses were contiguous and built very close together.

6. Some 500 jar handles bearing a single finger print, or sometimes two or three, were found. Marking jar handles is characteristic of the Kingdom of Judah and it seems this practice has already begun in the early Iron Age IIA.

7. A profusion of bronze and iron objects were found. The iron objects included three swords, about twenty daggers, arrowheads and two spearheads. The bronze items included an axe, arrowheads, rings and a small bowl.

8. Trade and imported objects. Ashdod ware, which was imported from the coastal plain, was found at the site. Basalt vessels were brought from a distance of more than 100 km and clay juglets from Cyprus and two alabaster vessels from Egypt were discovered.

The excavations at Khirbat Qeiyafa clearly reveal an urban society that existed in Judah already in the late eleventh century BCE. It can no longer be argued that the Kingdom of Judah developed only in the late eighth century BCE or at some other later date.

Read the whole report here. It includes several photographs.  With thanks to Joseph Lauer for mentioning it.

“Khirbet Qeiyafa in Context”

Nadav Na’aman’s “Khirbet Qeiyafa in Context“, which was published in UF 42 (2010), 497-526, is a magnificent essay which 12 pages in says

To introduce my discussion here, let me first note the obvious contradiction between the chronological data of Khirbet Qeiyafa and the biblical history of David.

The first 12 pages set the stage and from that point forward Na’aman describes and discusses the site. If you can get a copy of UF 42 this is an article you should take a look at.  It’s revelatory.

Khirbet Qeiyafa Lectures

From the Chattanoogan-

The Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum Lecture Series continues on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. in Lynn Wood Auditorium, Southern Adventist University.

Martin G. Klingbeil, D.Litt., will present “Ancient Near Eastern Passports: Two Stamp Seals from Khirbet Qeiyafa.” Admission is free.

Some of the greatest finds discovered in archaeological excavations are surprisingly small. Ancient Neat Eastern seals are only about the size of a thumbprint but they have been intricately engraved with letters and images that can tell us a lot about the socio-political, cultural, and, most interestingly, religious affiliations of their owners. These objects served as the equivalent of modern passports and authenticated not only business transactions and political treaties, but also served as important artifacts in the cultic sphere of the Ancient Near East. The lecture will provide an introduction to the interpretation of seals and focus specifically on two seals found at Khirbet Qeiyafa in area D during the 2011 season, which have not been published before.

With thanks to Jack Sasson for the heads up.

New Photos from Lachish, Khirbet Qeiyafa, and Gath

On the Tel Aviv University FB page.  Some great photos, all worth seeing!

LandMinds and The ‘City of David’ and the ‘Elah Fortress’

From their Facebook page-

This week on LandMinds… (September 7, 2011) – we’re off on another road trip – this time to the Elah Fortress (Kh. Qeiyafa). Barnea and I take a look at this year’s results – and review the “Second Gate Controversy”. Next, we have the director of Megalim – the City of David educational organization, Mr. Aharon Horowitz. In our final hour, Barnea and Dovid shmooze about some recent excavations and tours… It’s a fun show – listen to the live stream at 5pm or download the podcasts from the LandMinds page at http://www.facebook.com/l/gAQA4CD77AQDUI2BBy-IaEJ4kojSvB4nrZzUQES_vuvie3g/www.foundationstone.org.

Khirbet Qeiyafa in the News

Here at CNN they’ve done a video segment that’s worth viewing.  In case you’ve not seen it before (because they’ve run it before, so I’m not sure at all why they’re doing it again today).

Holy Land Grabs (via Sects and Violence in the Ancient World)

Steve shares some very good thoughts on the misuse of archaeology for political purposes.

Holy Land Grabs Civilization began in the “Middle East.” Ever since then, it has been a struggle to keep it together. One of the sad realities of the last century and continuing into this is that peace in this region seems as elusive as a Tea Partier with compassion. Claims to land are among the most complex of human inventions. Having never been a property owner, I’ve only ever watched this from the sidelines, but I know the endless surveying, assessing, and ne … Read More

via Sects and Violence in the Ancient World

‘Finding’ the City of David? CNN Blows it Again

Why can’t the press manage to get anything right?  Are journalists really so ignorant that they can’t pick up a phone and say to someone ‘hey, check this over and let me know if it’s right, ok?’  Come ON!

Joseph Lauer writes

CNN International has a five-minute video focusing on Khirbet Qeiyafa, the Elah fortress, at http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/international/2011/07/06/ime.maktabi.city.of.david.cnn/ The video, added on July 6, 2011, is (curiously) entitled “Finding the City of David” and (curiously) blurbed “Archaeologists in Israel believe they have found the remains of the legendary City of David.” Both Prof. Yosef Garfinkel and Prof. Israel Finkelstein are interviewed.

It’s not ‘curious’ that CNN titled it that, it’s ignorant.   But at least the sane voice of Finkelstein is heard.  Give it a watch and try not to pull your hair out when the lead in talks about proving the bible and David via Qeiyafa…  Here are a few screenshots:

Finkelstein v. Garfinkel: The Extent of the ‘Davidic Kingdom’

Ha’aretz has an article today many will be interested in (and noted by Antonio).

Did David rule a powerful kingdom, as the Bible would have us believe? Or was the so-called kingdom merely a small tribal entity? Prof. Yossi Garfinkel claims his dig at Khirbet Qeiyafa supports the biblical story, but other archaeologists treat his conclusions with scorn.

Garfinkel may well be right but on the other hand he may well be making a suit out of a button.

The only thing archaeologists agree on is that the Khirbet Qeiyafa site is an extremely impressive and intriguing site. Apart from that, everything is open to debate. Prof. Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University, who in the early 1990s was among the archaeologists who formulated the view that the Bible narratives have no significant historical foundation, says he is far from convinced that the site Garfinkel is excavating was part of the House of David in the Judean Hills rather than a Philistine or Canaanite settlement. Even if it did belong to the Kingdom of Judah, he says, he does not think it reinforces the notion of a developed kingdom in the Davidic period. His colleague from Tel Aviv University, the historian Prof. Nadav Na’aman, points out that although most of the data about the site have not yet been published, “the proposition that the site is related to the center in Jerusalem seems highly improbable.”

So the fun continues! Enjoy the whole essay.