On Thursday, July 18, three unique public buildings, the first of their kind ever found in the Judea area, have been unearthed by Hebrew University and Archaeology Authority archaeologists in the past year. The buildings date to the tenth century before the Common Era – the period in which King David reigned in Jerusalem.
Hebrew University archaeologist Yossi Garfinkel and Archaeology Authority official Saar Ganor, say that one of the buildings is indeed a palace used by King David himself.
The buildings were unearthed as part of a seven year archaeology project at Khirbet Qeiyafa, also known as the Elah Fortress, near Beit Shemesh, and thought to be the Biblical city of Sha’arayim. The city is heavily fortified, and is typical of other Judean cities that were established during the period of the Kings, before the destruction of the First Temple, said the archaeologists.
The palace building contains rooms that appear intended for residence (based on size, location in the building, and other factors). The building sits atop a high hill, and looks down on other buildings in the city, in addition to having a wide view towards the west, with the Mediterranean visible on clear days. In addition to the palace, a building that appears to be a royal storehouse or workhouse was uncovered, with evidence of metal works and other industries, in addition to areas for storage of food and other items. A third building was likely an administrative center for the collection of crop taxes from farmers in the area, the team said.
The buildings were destroyed partially during the Byzantine period about 1,400 years after they were built. They were later used by local Bedouin to house their animals, and the Bedouin name for the site is Khirbet Daoud, or David’s ruin.
“This is unequivocal evidence of a kingdom’s existence, which knew to establish administrative centers at strategic points”, the archaeologists said. “To date no palaces have been found that can clearly be ascribed to the early tenth century BCE as we can do now. Khirbet Qeiyafa was probably destroyed in one of the battles that were fought against the Philistines circa 980 BCE. The palace that is now being revealed and the fortified city that was uncovered in recent years are another tier in understanding the beginning of the Kingdom of Judah.”
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 intended construction of a new neighborhood nearby and to promote declaring the area around the site a national park. The two organizations say the site could serve as a tourism destination hot spot.