The amazing finds recently unearthed at a site in the Elah Valley known only by its modern name of Khirbet Qeiyafa have sent archaeologists into a frenzy. Now that they are on display in a fascinating exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem (BLMJ), the public is invited to take part in the exciting speculations.
Indeed, there are many theories about the identity of the residents of this two-gated city dating from the late 11th to the early 10th century BCE. Were they Canaanites, Philistines, or perhaps the subjects of King David himself? Have we found the biblical city of Shaarayim, mentioned in the battle of David and Goliath? Or perhaps it was a different biblical city, such as Ephes Dammim or Gov?
The dramatic controversy over whether Khirbet Qeiyafa uncovered physical proof of the existence of a Davidic stronghold in the Elah Valley is the subject of academic debate. The current exhibition judiciously presents the findings in an objective manner, supplying more questions than answers.
Fortified and well planned
Khirbet Qeiyafa was built on the border between the Philistines and the Judeans, in the area identified as the location of the famous battle between David and Goliath. Carbon 14 dating on charred olive pits have determined that this city existed between the late 11th century BCE and early 10th century BCE, which is the time of the beginning of the monarchy in Israel. It was only populated for a few decades before being destroyed and abandoned under unknown circumstances.
Historians are especially perplexed by the fact that the city was deliberately planned and organized in a manner that pre-dates any other city in the region. Also, it was surrounded by a massive wall that included two equally large and impressive gates – a very unusual feature for a relatively small city. These gates call to mind the ancient city of Shaarayim (literally two gates in Hebrew), mentioned in the biblical story of David and Goliath. One theory is that the Kingdom of David had spread west, and that the city may have been established as a frontal outpost against the Philistines.
Among the exciting artifacts on view at the new exhibition is an intriguing inscription that may be the oldest Hebrew writing ever to be discovered. Other revelations are unusual cultic model shrines that were found in ritual rooms. One of the most remarkable discoveries is a unique stone cultic shrine model, carved and decorated with architectural elements that may echo the biblical descriptions of King Solomons Temple and his Palace in Jerusalem.
Items such as cooking pots, bronze and iron tools and weapons and even some bronze jewelry allow us to witness the daily lives of the people who lived there 3,000 years ago. We are able to appreciate their tremendous architectural achievements, their rituals, and also glean insight into the administration of the city, which was obviously controlled by a powerful and well organized political entity.
Going back 3,000 years
This exciting new exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem allows visitors to discover the powerful connection between the Bible and the archaeology of the Land of Israel.
The artifacts in the exhibition were excavated between 2007 and 2013 by a delegation led by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archeology of the Hebrew University, together with Saar Ganor from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Prof. Michael Hasel of the Southern Adventist University of Tennessee.
Prof. Garfinkel believes that the findings prove that this city was founded by King David and can be linked to the biblical city of Shaarayim. The absence of pig bones, the almost complete lack of typical Philistine pottery, and the possible Hebrew inscription all support the theory that this could not have been a Philistine city.
Accompanying the displays are simulations of the city, a scale model reconstruction of one of the homes, and artifacts reflecting every element of daily life. A short film summarizes the exhibition, the site and some of its most important finds.
In addition to cookware, tools and weapons found at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the exhibition also includes the historic Tel Dan stele from the 9th century BCE, which is on loan to the BLMJ. Its inscription, in Aramaic, refers to the kingdom of Judah as Beith David (The House of David). The Tel Dan stele is the only written evidence found to date that verifies the existence of King David as a historical figure.
The exhibition gives the public a chance to see these exciting finds that have made Khirbet Qeiyafa a key site in understanding the social and historical processes that took place in the early days of the Kingdom of Israel, explains Amanda Weiss, director of the Bible Lands Museum. Visitors to the exhibition step into a world that once vanished, and witness a moving historic testimony of the everyday life of the residents who lived on the border between Philistia and Judah. We are proud to present this exhibition which gives people of all ages and from around the world the opportunity to go back 3,000 years in our history – to the time of King David.
A unique museum
Thanks to its creative, contemporary approach, the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem (BLMJ) succeeds in making the field of biblical history accessible – and fascinating – to a large and diverse audience. Founded in 1992, the museum invites visitors of all ages, nationalities and faith, laymen and scholars alike, to discover the wonders of ancient cultures.
Visitors can now experience the Museum like never before thanks to the new BLMJ app, which serves as a personal guide and a source of multimedia, pictures, videos and much more. Simply plug in your earphones and enjoy an even more meaningful experience.
The museum has earned international acclaim as a universal center for cultural and educational programming, notes Amanda Weiss, BLMJs energetic director and driving force. It is the only museum of its kind in the world where the civilizations of the Ancient Near East are brought to life from the dawn of civilization to the early Christian era.
The superb permanent exhibition spans more than 20 galleries, taking visitors through the chronological history of the Bible Lands, revealing our ancestors daily lives and religious rituals. History unfolds through artifacts such as figurines, mosaics and sculptures.
The new exhibition, In the Valley of David and Goliath, which will be open to the public through October 2017, was made possible with the support and cooperation of the Israel Antiquities Authority, The Elie and Batya Borowski Foundation, the American Friends of the BLMJ, the Lands of the Bible Archaeology Foundation, Canada, the British Friends of the BLMJ and private donors, as well as with the support of the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport, The Ministry of Education and the Municipality of Jerusalem.
For more information about the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem and its exhibitions: www.blmj.org
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