Image: Khirbet Qeiyafa
Two Israeli archaeologists, Yossi Garfinkel, a professor at Hebrew University and Saar Ganor, an archaeologist with Israel’s Antiquities Authority, have announced that they have discovered a fortification complex that is dated to David’s time, c. 1000 B.C.
Garfinkel and Ganor claim that the ruins found at Khirbet Qeiyafa, a site located in the Valley of Elah, are the remains of King David’s palace.
An article published in the Jerusalem Post describes the site:
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.
However, there has been some skepticism among archaeologists whether the remains found at Khirbet Qeiyafa are the ruins of David’s palace. Archaeologist Israel Finkelstein agreed that Khirbet Qeiyafa was an elaborate site in the 10th century B.C., but it could have been a site built by the Philistines, the Canaanites, or another people living in the area.
The question whether the remains found at Khirbet Qeiyafa is associated with David is very important to biblical studies. Until recently, many archaeologists believed that David never existed and that he never ruled over a united kingdom from Jerusalem.
In 1993, archeologists digging at the site of Dan, an ancient city located in the northern part of Israel, discovered a stele with an inscription containing a reference to “the house of David.” The Tell Dan Stele provided evidence that David was a real person and that he was the founder of a dynasty in Israel.
Although the discovery of this structure at Khirbet Qeiyafa is very important, it is doubtful that the remains are the ruins of David’s palace. It is possible that the building could have been a storage facility associated with the kingdom in Jerusalem, or probably a public structure associated with the monarchy. If David built a palace for himself, that palace would be located in Jerusalem, the capital of his kingdom. However, Garfinkel and Ganor claim that the palace at Khirbet Qeiyafa was one of the many palaces David built throughout his kingdom.
No one should minimize the importance of this discovery. Khirbet Qeiyafa has provided important information that helps scholars gain a better understanding of the history of an important period in the history of Israel. If this fortification is indeed associated with David, then it will be another step in confirming the historicity of the biblical narratives.
I have written several posts on Khirbet Qeiyafa and the many findings found at this site. If you are interested reading more about Khirbet Qeiyafa and its importance to biblical history, follow the links listed at the end of this post.
Garfinkel and Ganor have written an academic article providing extensive information about their work. The article can be downloaded in PDF format from the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Posts on Khirbet Qeiyafa: