The Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem offered a unique preview on Monday of an exhibition showcasing 3,000 year-old artifacts recovered from Khirbet Qeiyafa which archaeologists believe could be the biblical city of Sha'arayim, meaning 'Two Gates', that is mentioned in the story of the battle of David and the Philistine giant, Goliath.
Khirbet Qeiyafa, overlooking the Elah Valley southwest of Jerusalem, is an ancient fortified city that was discovered around a decade ago. But it was not until the second year of excavations in 2008 that archaeologists realized they had stumbled upon what was possibly the earliest physical evidence of a Davidic city dating back to the 11th Century BCE.
Over the course of seven years, excavations revealed a walled city with two equally large and dominant gates - a highly unusual feature for a relatively small city. The Elah Valley divided the lands of the Israelites and the Philistines, whose champion warrior was felled by the young shepherd boy David's slingshot. When archaeologists excavated the gates they were reminded of the ancient city of Sha'arayim that featured in the famous story.
Other significant clues that pointed to the presence of a Judean stronghold are the absence of pig bones among the scores of animal remains, and most significantly, two inscriptions written in the Canaanite script that were found on a jar and a pottery fragment which are believed to be the earliest known example of Hebrew writing.
The excavations were supervised by Professor Yosef Garfinkel, Yigal Yardin Chair of Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who described the find as a 'Biblical Pompeii'.
Garfinkel told Reuters Television that archaeologists were stunned to discover the ancient ruins lay barely 20 centimeters below the surface. Built on hard stone, carbon-dating of charred olive pits excavated from the foundation layers of the site determined that the city existed between the late 11th Century BCE and early 10th Century BCE, the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel.
Despite strong evidence that suggests Khirbet Qeiyafa could be the lost city of Sha'arayim, Gurfinkel said that archaeology could neither prove nor disprove the Bible, but that it could establish that "what is written in the Bible fit(s) the geographical situation and the anthropology of the period. The story of David and Goliath and the city are located in exactly the same location; they're from the same period, so it cannot be a coincidence," he said.
The Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem director, Amanda Weiss agrees that the evidence, when considered in its entirety, points strongly to a Davidic period site.
"..if you look at the whole site and its history, you see a Judean stronghold on the border of the Philistine, between the Philistines and the Judeans in the Elah Valley from the time period of David. It's incredible historical evidence all coming together at the same time," Weiss told Reuters.
The Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem will open the new exhibition on September 5, entitled "In the valley of David and Goliath," which will provide an opportunity for visitors to go back in history to the time of Israel's greatest King David.