A Canaanite fortress from the middle of the 12 century B.C – The days of the biblical judges, was found by Israel Antiquities Authority and teenage volunteers in an excavation close to Kibbutz Galon, near Kiryat Gat. The site is now being opened for the public free of charge, in a collaboration between Israel Antiquities Authority and the Jewish National Fund (KKL).
According to archaeologists Saar Ganor and Itamar Weissbein of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The fortress we found provides a glimpse into the Geopolitical reality described in the Judges book, in which the Canaanites, Israelites and Philistines are fighting each other. In this period, the land of Canaan was ruled by the Egyptians and its inhabitants were under their custody. Then, during the 12th century B.C., two new players entered the game: the Israelites and the Philistines. This led to a series of violent territorial disputes. The Israelites settled in non-fortified settlements at the Benjamin and Judean Mountains. Meanwhile, The Philistines accumulated power in the Southern Coastal Plain and established big cities such as Ashkelon, Ashdod and Gat. In an attempt to conquer more areas, The Philistines confronted the Egyptians and the Canaanites on the borderline, which probably passed at the Guvrin river, between the Philistine kingdom of Gat and the Canaanite kingdom of Lachish. It seems that Galon fortress was built as a Canaanite/Egyptian attempt to cope with the new Geopolitical situation. However, in the middle of the 12 century B.C. the Egyptians left the land of Canaan and returned to Egypt. Their departure led to the destruction of the now unprotected Canaanite cities – a destruction that was probably led by the Philistines.
According to Ganor and Weissbein, the stories of the judges in the bible demonstrate clearly the complicated Geopolitical reality and the struggle for the control of territories during the establishment of new political powers in the land of Israel.
At Bezek, they encountered Adoni-bezek, engaged him in battle, and defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. (Judges 1:5)
The fortress structure, called Egyptian ‘governor houses,’ is known from other sites excavated in Israel. The fortress was built in a strategic location, from which it is possible to watch the main road that went along the Guvrin river – a road connecting the coastal plain to the Judea plains.
The size of the fortress is 18X 18 m’ and watchtowers were built in the four corners. A massive threshold, carved from a single rock weighing around 3 tons, was preserved at the entrance of the building. Inside the fortress was a courtyard paved with stone slabs and columns in the middle. Rooms were constructed from both sides of the courtyard. Hundreds of pottery vessels, some still whole, were found in the rooms of the fortress, including special vessels such as bowl and cup that were probably used for religious ritual. A large number of bowls were also found in the rooms, some of which were made in a style copying Egyptian bowls.
The remains of the fortress were uncovered with the help of students form the Israel studies department at the multidisciplinary school in Be’er Sheva, students from the Nachshon pre-military preparatory program and other volunteers. This was done as part of the Israel Antiquities Authority policy to bring the general public, and especially the young generation, closer to archaeology.
According to Talila Lifshitz, director of the community and forest department in the southern region of the Jewish National Fund, “Galon fortress provides a fascinating glimpse into the story of a relatively unknown period in the history of the country and it provides a touristic and experiential attraction for visitors.” The fortress is located in Guvrin forest and was prepared for public visitation in a collaboration between Israel Antiquities Authority and the southern region of the Jewish National Fund (KKL). A picnic area and some explanatory signs were set up to enhance the archaeological experience in nature and in the KKL forests.