Ritual objects discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa 370.
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
A Hebrew University archeologist has discovered artifacts from a 3,000-year-old
community that have created a new understandings of how the First Temple was
built, the university announced on Tuesday.
Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, the
Yigal Yadin Professor of Archeology at the university, displayed models of items
excavated in Khirbet Qeiyafa, a fortified city in the Valley of Elah, about 30
km. southwest of Jerusalem.
The religious community, which Garfinkel
believes was Jewish, based on the lack of pig bones and graven images, kept
small shrines in rooms of three buildings. The small ritual objects are box-like
in shape and made from basalt or clay. The shrines predate the First Temple by
at least 30 years, but utilize important architectural designs written in the
Torah that describe how the Temple should be built.
The discovery of
these ritual objects has allowed archeologists a new understanding of the
Temple’s construction, explained Garfinkel.
More than 20 architectural
terms that describe the Temple no longer exist in modern language, so models of
the Temple are based on educated guesses. For example, the Torah states that the
Temple had “slaot,” which was previously understood as “columns,” and “sequfim,”
which was widely translated as “windows.” But after studying the small shrines,
Garfinkel concluded that the number of slaot corresponded to triglyphs,
ornamental decorations above the columns, and the number of sequifim was
consistent with a triple recessed doorway, rather than windows.
said the objects’ discovery has dramatically changed the way Bible scholars
envision the Temple.
“Our effort in biblical scholarship is to understand
the text,” he said. “Now this model enables us to understand two terms out of
We don’t know all of the terms, but it’s a step.”
of having shrines in homes is described in II Samuel, Chapter 6: “He brought the
Ark of God from a private house in Kiryat Ye’arim and put it in Jerusalem in a
Khirbet Qeiyafa was a border city in the Kingdom of Judah
opposite the Philistine city of Gath.
Oxford University used carbon
dating methods on 10 burned olive pits to conclude the city existed for a short
time between 1020 and 980 BCE and was violently destroyed. Unlike similar
Canaanite and Philistine cities from the same period, no graven images of
humans, gods, or animals were discovered at the site.
were no pig bones among the debris of sheep, cattle and goat bones.
facts, coupled with the organization of the buildings in the Roman manner
consistent with other Jewish cities, led Garfinkel to conclude that the
settlement was most likely Jewish or practiced Judaic values such as
Khirbet Qeiyafa is also the site of the oldest discovered
Hebrew inscription, which was found in 2008. A stone inscription bears the
Hebrew “Al Ta’as” – “Don’t do” – though the rest of the inscription is
Doctoral student Michael Freikman, who was part of the group
that excavated the site, said two of the shrines were discovered on the last day
of the dig, in July 2011. “That’s the law of archeology, you always find the
most important things on the last day,” he said.
Katharina Streit, a
master’s degree student from Germany, said the students didn’t initially
appreciate the importance of the discovery because they had no idea what they
had found. “When we saw the first one, we didn’t know what it was, because we
had never seen anything like it before, including in books or anything,” she