Revisiting the era of my namesake

A fort near the Valley of Elah, where David is said to have slain Goliath, is shedding new light on the period when David is said to have reigned.

The city needed 200,000 tonnes of stone and it is, as yet, unclear how it relates to the persons mentioned in the biblical tale — or indeed if it has anything to do with the Israelites at all.

“This is a new type of site that suddenly opens a window on an area where we have had almost nothing and requires us to rethink what was going on at that period,” said Aren Maeir, professor of archaeology at Bar-Ilan University and the director of a major Philistine dig not far from here. “This is not a run-of-the-mill find.”

The 10th century B.C. is the most controversial period in biblical archaeology because it is then, according to the Old Testament, that David united the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, setting the stage for his son Solomon to build his great temple and rule over a vast area from the Nile to the Euphrates Rivers.

But the archaeological record of that kingdom is exceedingly sparse — in fact almost nonexistent — and a number of scholars today argue that the kingdom was largely a myth created some centuries later. A great power, they note, would have left traces of cities and activity, and been mentioned by those around it. Yet in this area nothing like that has turned up — at least until now.

An enormous amount of work remains to be done, and nothing has been published on the artifacts uncovered by the archaeologists. There are also concerns about the project’s financing:  it is funded by a group that seeks “to strengthen the tie of the Jewish people to the land”.

But regardless of what is uncovered for certain, or to whom the city belonged, this is a wonderful site for work on the period. As the team has noted, there is very little evidence about the time. This means that anything that can be discovered is fantastic for historical and archaeological research and can add just a little more to the pool of human knowledge.

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