Adventist Archaeologists Excavate Judean Fortress
Fifty staff and students from Southern Adventist University, directed by Professor Michael Hasel excavated at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the biblical site of Shaaraim (1 Sam. 17:52) during the summer of 2011. The archaeological site overlooks the picturesque Elah Valley, about 30 km (19 miles) east of Jerusalem, with Tel Socoh and Tel Azeka (see 1 Sam. 17:1-3) on the southern and western sides, demarcating the border between ancient Israel and Philistia, and presumably the location of the historic battle between David and Goliath.
ANCIENT FIND: Volunteer Joliann Penn, a senior at Southern Adventist University, with a thumb-imprinted Hellenistic jar handle.The Adventist Review has earlier reported on this important archaeological site (see “Another Battle Over David and Goliath,” February 25, 2010), featuring the oldest found Hebrew inscription excavated in 2008. The 2011 season concludes a three-year excavation project of Southern Adventist University, conducted in partnership with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the directorship of Yosef Garfinkel, one of the leading archaeologists in modern Israel.
Khirbet Qeiyafa has recently been catapulted onto the center stage of scholarly debate between the so-called minimalist school, which denies the historical existence of the kingdom of David as described in the biblical record, and biblical scholars who uphold the historicity of David and the united monarchy. CNN has featured this controversy in a recent report, and the footage shows mainly Southern Adventist University staff and volunteers digging in Area D during the 2011 season (http://bit.ly/mXVBef). Eminent Bible scholars and tour groups from all over the world who are trying to get a firsthand impression of the ongoing excavations and its historic significance visit the site on a daily basis.
Garfinkel believes that Khirbet Qeiyafa, along with Hebron and Jerusalem, was a key city in the Davidic administration of the southern part of his kingdom, and there is continuing evidence being unearthed indicating that the site was fortified and occupied during the archaeological Iron Age IIA period that corresponds to the tenth-century B.C., or the time of David. The stratification of the site as evidenced by the pottery data and object finds, is mostly limited to the Iron Age IIA (1031-971 B.C.) and the Hellenistic Period (332-63 B.C.). However, proponents of the minimalist school are continuing to contest the dating of the occupation levels at Khirbet Qeiyafa.
Excavations took place in Area C along the eastern gate, conducted by a group from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and in Area D, adjacent to the southwestern gate, where 19 staff members and 31 volunteers from Southern Adventist University, consisting mainly of students and some community members, are working for six weeks. Important finds in Area D from this season include inscribed pottery shards, a broken scarab, an Egyptian seal, and a variety of coins from the Hellenistic period, as well as an amulet and an important amount of reconstructable objects from the Iron Age, amongst which there is a cultic libation vessel with a double cup, the fourth one found in archaeological excavations in Israel and Jordan, and the second from Khirbet Qeiyafa.
The interpretation of the site and its objects is still tentative. The Institute of Archaeology, Southern Adventist University, staffed by professors Michael Hasel, director, and Martin Klingbeil, associate director, and museum coordinator Justo Morales, together with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is engaged in an ambitious publication project that aims at presenting the excavation report of the 2009-2011 seasons in the very near future.
“This season’s excavation has attracted major attention for the important buildings excavated from the time of Alexander the Great and the special finds from the time of David. Biblical history and prophecy becomes tangible and real in the twenty-first century,” Hasel said.
—Adventist World staff with information from Southern Adventist University