The Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem (BLMJ) will display important new archaeological findings to the public in an exhibit called In the Valley of David and Goliath, beginning on September 5, 2016.
The exhibition showcases 100 select artifacts from a mysterious two-gated city from 3,000 years ago. The site known by its modern name Khirbet Qeiyafa is on a mountain top overlooking the Elah Valley, between Sokho and Azekah.
Before the official museum opening, a press tour to the excavations highlighted the ancient city situated on the border between the Philistines and the Judeans and its significance.
For seven seasons from 2007-2013, Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, Yigal Yadin Chair of Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University, together with Sa'ar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Dr. Michael Hazel of the Southern Adventist University of Tennessee conducted careful excavations of the site.
Using Carbon 14 dating on 28 burnt olive pits excavated from the foundation layers of the site, it was determined the city existed between the late 11th century BCE and early 10th century BCE, the beginning of the House of David.
The city was deliberately planned and organized, as opposed to agricultural villages of earlier historical times. It was surrounded by a massive wall that included two large and dominant gates, a very unusual feature for a relatively small city. When the archaeologists excavated these gates, they thought of the ancient city of Sha'arayim (literally 'two gates' in Hebrew), mentioned in the story of David and Goliath.
Historians and archaeologists suspect the Kingdom of David spread southward from Jerusalem, and this city may have been established as a frontal outpost against the Philistines to control the main road in the Judean hill country. It was only populated for a few decades before being destroyed and abandoned under unknown circumstances.
Now, 3,000 years later, Garfinkel is excited to share his discoveries, which he considers evidence of active Jewish life in the time of King David. No external evidence of the stories of life in Egypt or Sinai have been found, but the artifacts from Khirbet Qeiyafa fit the time period of Kings David and Solomon.
Until now, the Tel Dan stele from the 9th century BCE, which is on loan for this exhibit, was the only written evidence found verifying the existence of the House of David. Two pieces in ancient script were found, and are on display, plus a unique stone-carved cultic shrine model decorated with architectural elements. The design appears to echo the biblical descriptions of King Solomon's Temple and his Palace in Jerusalem. The relic has a door frame with the shalosh, shalosh, shalosh (3-3-3) design.
Leading one group at the excavation site, Kaplan pointed to the large stones for the walls, laid out in a circular pattern. The earth layer which was removed by archaeologists was not deep. They found that each home had a kitchen, and the absence of pig bones in the animal remains is significant to proving Jewish presence. In addition, most of the pottery found was not of the Philistine or Canaanite types, and archaeologists found no idols or icons. 24 metal blades were discovered, most were iron, while the remaining were bronze.
The program concluded with Garfinkel saying, "Archaeology is the history of us--Tanach and Eretz Yisrael - Shelanu."
Amanda Weiss, director of the Bible Lands Museum said, "The exhibition gives the public a chance to see these exciting finds that have made Qeiyafa a key site in understanding the social and historical processes that took place in the early days of the Kingdom of Israel. Visitors to the exhibition will step into a world that once vanished, and will witness a moving historic testimony of the everyday life of the residents who lived on the border between Philistia and Judah."
The photo essay includes views of the excavation and the Elah Valley, and scenes from the BLMJ exhibit, maps, a model reconstruction of one of the homes and artifacts found, cookware, tools and weapons, and the olive pits which were sent to England for testing.
An app for an audio guide of the new BLMJ exhibit is planned to make it more relevant and interesting to younger visitors.