“The city of Azekah … located on a mountain ridge, like pointed iron daggers without number reaching high to heaven. [Its walls] were strong and rivaled the highest mountains… [by means of beaten (earth) ra]mps, battering rams … I captured, I carried off its spoil, I destroyed, I devastated…” - King Sennacherib of Assyria described vanquishing Azekah during his campaign against the Kingdom of Judah more than 2,700 years ago.
Mountain ridge is somewhat overstating the case. The ruins identified as the biblical city of Azekah lie on a hill, being excavated by the Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition, led by Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University and and Manfred Oeming of Heidelberg University, with field director: Dr. Sabine Kleiman of Tübingen University, archaeologists are exploring the ancient ruins under the burning sun in southern Israel. Not only walls and pottery fragments are coming to light. So are bodies, lying where they were felled, and today treated with the sober respect they did not get at the time.
Here are some of the team's most recent finds, shedding light on the town's fate - but mostly, on how the people lived.
Little Azekah had impressive fortifications of its own but lived in the shadow of its powerful neighbor Gath.
The Assyrians were noted for the brutality of their campaigns. Archaeologists think they may have even found the siege ramp Sennacherib's forces used.
Nobody would have been spared after the Assyrians breached the city wall.
Founded in the Early Bronze Age, Azekah prospered in the Middle Bronze Age - and was destroyed in the late Late Bronze Age, after which it arose anew about 3000 years ago as a Judean town.
Figurines abounded in Bronze Age sites and later, and what they meant, we cannot always know.
In the late Bronze Age, Egypt gained control over Canaan, but religious influence seems to have gone both ways.
The oldest mud-brick walls known to date are about 7,200 years old, from a prehistoric village in the Jordan Valley, but more usually, they return to their natural state: mud.
Trade has been a thing since the dawn of civilization and even before.
The difference between a mud-brick wall and a clay pot is usually firing for the latter, making them more resilient to usage and the ages - to a degree.
Bonhomie, it does not speak of.
Pottery may be used to date and identify a site - and indicate prosperity when the item came from afar.
Handles can be indicative of the origin of a given vessel.