Israeli researchers unearth palace that may have been home to King David
The ruins of a large palace extending across an area of 3,200 square feet have been uncovered by researchers from Hebrew University (HUJI) and the Israel Antiquities Authorit (IAA). According to the researchers, who have spent the past several years unearthing the ruins, the site at Khirbet Qeiyafa is attributed to the time of King David and is identified with the biblical city of Shaarayim.
The site consists of two royal public buildings, one of which has been identified as King David's palace and the second as an enormous royal storeroom, according to Professor Yossi Garfinkel of HUJI and Saar Ganor of the IAA, co-leaders of the investigative team.
As the excavation draws to a close, researchers call the site 'the best example exposed to date of a fortified city from the time of King David,.' 'The wall enclosing the palace is [nearly 100 feet] long, and an impressive entrance was fixed in it through which one descended to the southern gate of the city, opposite the Valley of Elah.'
'Around the palace's perimeter were rooms in which various installations were found - evidence of a metal industry, special pottery vessels and fragments of alabaster vessels that were imported from Egypt. The palace is located in the center of the site and controls all of the houses lower than it in the city. From here one has an excellent vantage looking out into the distance, from as far as the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Hebron Mountains and Jerusalem in the east,' explained the researchers. 'This is an ideal location from which to send messages by means of fire signals.' Unfortunately, much of this palace was destroyed c. 1,400 years later when a fortified farmhouse was built there in the Byzantine period.
According to the researchers, the royal storeroom was where 'the kingdom stored taxes it received in the form of agricultural produce collected from the residents of the different villages in the Judean Shephelah. Hundreds of large store jars were found at the site whose handles were stamped with an official seal as was customary in the Kingdom of Judah for centuries.'
Garfinkel and Ganor said this site and the artifacts unearthed are 'unequivocal evidence of a kingdom's existence, which knew to establish administrative centers at strategic points… To date no palaces have been found that can clearly be ascribed to the early tenth century BCE as we can do now. Khirbet Qeiyafa was probably destroyed in one of the battles that were fought against the Philistines circa 980 BCE. The palace that is now being revealed and the fortified city that was uncovered in recent years are another tier in understanding the beginning of the Kingdom of Judah.'
However, not everyone concurs with this conclusion.
According to Haaretz, one group has called into question the very existence of King David's 10th century joint monarchy with Solomon, saying there never was any such kingdom. Even if it did exist, the group explained it would have been limited to Jerusalem, which itself was no bigger than an average village.
Professor Aren Meir, a critic on the subject from Bar Ilan University, agrees the site is important, but notes the archaeologists are relying too heavily on the Bible itself as a source of evidence.
'[Can we] raise arguments about the kingdom of David and Solomon? That seems to me a grandiose upgrade,' Meir told Haaretz.
Despite the arguments from critics, Garfinkel and Ganor said they are standing by their claims.
The exposure of the biblical city at Khirbet Qeiyafa and the importance of the discovery have led the IAA to act together with the Nature and Parks Authority and various planning agencies to cancel the construction of a new neighborhood at the site and to promote the idea of turning it into a national park. This plan stems from the belief that the site will quickly garner a large following, with people wanting to visit from all over the world.
The researchers believe that with great interest will also come great teaching, and many will want to learn about the culture of the country at the time of King David.