Khirbet Qeiyafa

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Khirbet Qeiyafa (خربة قيافة), also known as Elah Fortress and in Hebrew as Horbat Qayafa (חורבת קייאפה), is the site of an ancient fortress city overlooking the Elah Valley and dated to the first half of the 10th century BCE.

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The 23-dunam (5.7-acre) site is surrounded by a casement wall and fortifications.

Garfinkel suggests that it was a Judean city with 500–600 inhabitants during the reign of David and Solomon.

Dig directors Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor identify Khirbet Qeiyafa with Biblical Sha’arayim, Hebrew for "two gates" (Joshua 15:36; 1 Samuel 17:52; 1 Chronicles 4:31)—a fitting name for the site. The two monumental four-chambered city gates at Khirbet Qeiyafa are located on the western and southern sides of the site and measure approximately 35 feet wide and 42 feet deep into the city. The western gate controls access to the road going west toward Philistia, while the southern one opens down to the Elah Valley that eventually connects to Jerusalem.

Notable Stuctures

circa 950 BCE

Western Gate
The 'western gate' or the city gate of the Elah Fortress faces west with a path down to the road leading to the sea, and was thus named "Gath Gate" or "Sea Gate".

circa 950 BCE

Southern Gate

circa 950 BCE


Notable Artefacts

circa 3000 BCE

Proto-Canaanite Ostracon
The Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon is a trapezoid-shaped potsherd, with five lines of text, discovered during excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa in 2008. Hebrew University archaeologist Amihai Mazar said the inscription was the longest Proto-Canaanite text ever found. Carbon-14 dating of olive pips found in the same context with the ostracon and pottery analysis offer a date circa 3,000 years ago (10th century BCE). In 2010 the ostracon was placed on display in the Iron Age gallery of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

circa 1000 BCE

Išbaʿal son of Beda inscription
In 2012 an inscription in Canaanite alphabetic script was found on the shoulder of a ceramic jar. The inscription read "ʾIšbaʿal [/Ishbaal/Eshbaal] son of Beda" and was dated to the late 11th or 10th century BCE (Iron Age IIA).

circa 1000 BCE

Portable Shrines
Three small portable shrines were also discovered. The smaller shrines are boxes shaped with different decorations showing impressive architectonic and decorative styles. Garfinkel suggested the existence of a biblical parallel regarding the existence of such shrines (2 Samuel 6). One of the shrines is decorated with two pillars and a lion. According to Garfinkel, the style and the decoration of these cultic objects are very similar to the Biblical description of some features of Solomon's Temple.


See Also


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