Archeologists have uncovered a Philistine temple and evidence of a major earthquake in biblical times, during digs carried out at the Tel Tzafit National Park near Kiryat Gat.

The site is home to the Philistine city of Gath, the home of the ancient warrior Goliath.

Prof. Aren Maeir, of Bar-Ilan University's Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, said on Wednesday that the temple may shed light on the architecture in Philistia at the time when Jewish hero Samson purportedly brought the temple of Dagon down upon himself.

Maier said the architecture of the Philistine temple, the first ever found at Gath, sheds light on what the temple of Dagon would have looked like, in particular the two pillars that anchored the center of the structure.

“We’re not saying this is the same temple where the story of Sampson occurred or that the story even did occur,” Maeir said. “But this gives us a good idea of what image whoever wrote the story would have had of a Philistine temple.”

Maeir said that seismologists who examined the site confirmed that a major earthquake occurred there, one that they estimated would have measured 8 on the Richter scale. The main evidence was the presence of several brick walls that had been thrown apart and had collapsed “like a deck of cards.

“If the seismologists are right, an 8 on the Richter scale would have leveled a major city. The intensity of the energy required to move the walls seem to have been from something very powerful,” Maeir said.

“We know that there is a very famous earthquake mentioned in the book of Isaiah and the book of Amos... What we have here is very strong arch-evidence of a dramatic earthquake, a natural event that left a very significant impression on the bibli

cal prophets of the time.”

The site in Tel Tzafit National Park, which contains one of the largest ancient ruin mounds in Israel, saw near-continuous human habitation from the fifth millennium BCE until today.

Other major finds there were evidence of the destruction of Gath by Hazael King of Aram- Damascus around 830 BCE, and evidence of the first Philistine settlement in Canaan.

Maeir said the items include the siege equipment used by Hazael during the attack on Gath, the oldest archeological finds of their sort ever unearthed.

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