A joint excavation led by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel Antiquities Authorities discovered two of the largest structures ever uncovered from the Kingdom of Judea, the Israel Antiquities Authorities announced on Thursday.
Researchers Prof. Yossi Garfinkel and Saar Ganor identified one of the structures as a palace of King David, while the other as a large storage structure for the kingdom.
The excavation, which lasted seven years, gives evidence to state building and administrative organization during the time of King David.
According to Garfinkel and Ganor, "The ruins are the best example to date of the uncovered fortress city of King David," giving researchers a step up in understanding the origins of the kingdom of Judah.
"This is indisputable proof of the existence of a central authority in Judah during the time of King David," the archaeologists said.
Until now, no palaces were clearly attributable to the early tenth century BC. According to the archeologists, the site, named 'Khirbet Qeiyafa', was probably destroyed in a battle against the Philistines in 980 BC.
Recent excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the first early Judean city to be dated by 14C, clearly indicate a well planned fortified city in Judah as early as the late 11th-early 10th centuries BC. This new data has far reaching implication for archaeology, history and biblical studies.
Khirbet Qeiyafa is located 30 km southwest of Jerusalem, on the summit of a hill that borders the Elah Valley on the north. This is a key strategic location in the biblical Kingdom of Judah, on the main road from Philistia and the Coastal Plain to Jerusalem and Hebron in the hill country. The city was constructed on bedrock, 2.3 hectares in area, surrounded by massive fortifications of megalithic stones. Five seasons of excavation were carried out in 2007-2011, five areas of the site (Areas A-E) were examined, and nearly 20% of the city has been uncovered. The expedition excavated 200 m of the city wall, two gates, a pillar building and 10 houses. In this area one of the world's most famous battles took place, the battle between David and Goliath.
Such urban planning has not been found at any Canaanite or Philistine city, nor in the northern Kingdom of Israel, but is a typical feature of city planning in Judean cities: Beersheba, Tell Beit Mirsim, Tell en-Nasbeh and Tell Beth-Shemesh. Khirbet Qeiyafa is the earliest known example of this city plan and indicates that this pattern had already been developed by the time of King David.
The city came to an end in a sudden destruction, as indicated by hundreds of pottery vessels, stone utensils and metal objects left on the floors of the houses. Very rich assemblages of pottery, stone tools and metal objects were found, as well as many cultic objects, scarabs, seals and the most famous Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon, an inscription written with ink on a pottery sherd. The recent excavations also revealed fragments of a special alabaster stone imported from Egypt.
Around the perimeter of the palace were rooms in which various installations were found – evidence of a metal industry, special pottery vessels and fragments of alabaster vessels that were imported from Egypt, archaeologists said.
A pillared building 15 meters long by 6 meters wide was exposed in the north of the city, which was used as an administrative storeroom, they said.
The importance of the discovery of the biblical city led the Israel Antiquities Authority in collaboration with the Natural Parks Authority to reject a proposal to build a new neighborhood close to the site, declaring the area and its surroundings a national park.