Archeologists Claim to Find King David’s City

August 4, 2013

3 min read

Chirbet Kaiyahafa is one of the most hotly debated archeology sites today… Just 20 miles from Jerusalem, the ancient city ruins sit on a hill overlooking the Elah valley where the bible says the Israelites encamped when David slew the giant Goliath… Burned olive pits put through carbon 14 dating tests at Oxford University show this city is more than 3,000 years old…it stood from approximately 1020 BCE to 980 BCE.

Professor Yossi Garfinkel is the lead archeologist at Chirbet Kaiyafah, where he began excavating in the summer of 2007. He believes he’s uncovered a walled Judaen city that was part of the kingdom ruled from Jerusalem by the biblical King David. It corresponds, Garfinkel says, with the city the bible calls She’aryiim. There are a number of clues that lead Garfinkel to believe Judaens from the Israelite kingdom lived here, not Cannanites and not Philistines. A pottery shard was discovered with what Garfinkel and others argue is the earliest Hebrew inscription…

Garfinkel says there’s another compelling reason to believe the people that lived here were Judaean. After years of excavations, not one pig bone has ever been recovered, leading him to believe that whoever lived her observed the biblical ban on eating pork. That was very typical of Judaean and Israelite settlements. For comparison, 20% of the bones excavated in neighboring Philistine cities were pig. No graven images and no animal or human figurines were found in the site’s cultic or worhip rooms — another sign of Judean culture. The urban planning is also typical of other Judaean settlements, with Casmat or double walls that abut private homes…

The existence of a fortified Judaen city around 1000 BCE supports the idea, Garfinkel says, that a centralized kingdom under King David did exist at that time, as the bible says. Information on the Israelite leader can be found in the books of Samuel, Kings 1 and Chronicles 1 — but little concrete evidence of David’s 10th century kingdom over Judah and then united Israel has been found.

That has made the famed warrior, poet and harp player one of the most controversial figures in biblical archeology. With only one stele in Israel mentioning the house of david, some argue the bible greatly exaggerated King David’s kingdom which was said to extend from the Euphrates to Egypt…some believe David may have only been a local tribal leader or even a bandit…

Saar Ganor discovered the Chirbet Kaiyafah site as a ranger for the Israeli Antiquities Authority and has been digging with Garfinkel ever since. Last summer they found what they call more proof that their site is a Judaen city from the time of King David… They dug up these two cultic artifacts or “shrine models”…one made of clay, the other limestone… It’s the shrine models detailed design that interests Garfinkel most. He says their style echoes elements of architecture from Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem which is described in the bible…the models, Garfinkel insists, help us better understand how the First Temple, built a generation later in the mid 9th century, may have looked.

On the red clay shrine model, it’s the folded textile and two pillars which Garfinkel says match what are called Yachin and Boaz pillars in the biblical descriptions of Soloman’s Temple… The limestone shrine model matches later biblical descriptions of the entrance of Soloman’s Temple, like its height to width ratio…and it clarifies Garfinkel says, that descriptions of 3 windows framing the entrance on 3 sides may have actually referred to lintels…

Garfinkel’s point is that a common Near Eastern style of architecture associated with royalty and urban centers was picked up later by the Israelites…giving more credence to the theory that the bible’s description of Jerusalem’s First Temple was far from fiction…political sensitivities have prevented archeologists from looking for evidence of the first temple on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

But many archeologists in Israel and abroad disagree with Garfinkel who’s just published a book on his findings. Some call the shrine models a great find, but note similar ones have been found in the region and so they shouldn’t be linked to Jerusalem’s Temple. Others believe Chirbet Kayafah is a Cannanite city, not Judaen. Digging will continue here for 2 more summers, but it’s likely debates over this site, over King David and the Temple will go on for a lot longer…

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