Khirbet Beit Lei

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Khirbet Beit Lei (also spelled Beit Lehi) or Beth Loya (Hebrew: חורבת בית לויה) is an archaeological tell in the Judean lowlands of Israel/Palestine. It is located some 5.5 kilometers southeast of Tel Lachish and ten miles west-northwest of Hebron, on a hill 400 meters above sea level. The Arabic word khirbet means "ruin".

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The name Beit Lei (بيت لي) is pronounced "bait lay" in Arabic; the term lei (لي) means "twisting'. But some Church members interested in the cave became convinced that the place must anciently have been known as Lehi.

The site had been settled from the Hellenistic period until at least the Mamluk period. A number of hewn subterranean installations, including columbaria, olive presses, water cisterns, quarries, a stable and hideaways are attributed to the Hellenistic and Roman periods.


Notable Structures

circa 500 CE

Byzantine Basilica
The Byzantine church is thought to have been built around the year 500 CE, and to have functioned well into the 8th century. The church complex was thought to be on the outskirts of a village. The mosaic floors of the church were defaced, reflecting iconoclastic activity, but were then repaired. In 1983 and 1986 Joseph Patrich and Yoram Tsafrir excavated a basilica church at the site, as well as an olive press, a wine press and a burial cave nearby, on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.


Large Columbrium
The large columbarium (a manmade dovecote), dates back to the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Notable Artefacts

circa 600 BCE

YHWH (Yehweh) Inscription
The YHWH Inscription is one of the seven inscriptions/graffiti found in the excavations at Khirbet Beit Lei. Various scholars have proposed different readings of this particular graffiti. It appears that the words YHWH (Yahweh) and YRSHLM (Jerusalem) feature in the inscriptions, which Joseph Naveh dated to the late 6th century BCE.


See Also


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