Tel Arad Citadel

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The citadel of Arad, located in the Negev, dates back to the time of King Solomon and David. Although there was a small settlement during the time of Solomon, it was during the divided monarchy period that a fortress was established at Tel-Arad. During the period of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah (10th-6th centuries BCE), successive citadels were built on the hill of Arad as part of a series of fortifications protecting the trade routes in the Negev and the southern border of the kingdom against marauding nomads.


The first of these citadels was built by King Solomon (10th century BCE). It measured 55 x 50 meters. The small fortress was surrounded by a casemate wall (two parallel walls with cross-walls between them) 5 meters. thick, and with a gate protected by two towers in its eastern side. Large towers protruded from the corners and along the wall. Inside the citadel were quarters for the garrison, storerooms, and an Israelite temple. The Arad Fortress (illustration) underwent several re-building and re-arrangement phases.

This upper area also offers a peek into the idolatrous syncretism of Israel’s pre-exilic divided kingdom. Here stood one of the forbidden “high places” referred to in Scripture. In the Early Arab period (7th-10th century CE), a fortified caravansary was established to protect the trade routes which passed there.

Notable Archaeological Structures

circa 950 BCE

Citadel Precinct
The western gate of the citadel, stratum X, Arad is mentioned in the Bible in the story of the failed attempt to reach the Promised Land (Numbers 21:1) and in the list of the Canaanite kings defeated by the Children of Israel (Joshua 12:14). In the 9th century BCE, a new citadel was built, surrounded by a massive, 4 m.-thick wall. This citadel, with various modifications, remained in use until the Babylonian conquest of the Kingdom of Judah in 587/6 BCE.

circa 950 BCE

Israelite Temple
Located in the northwestern corner of the citadel, the Israelite sanctuary at Arad comprised three rooms along an east-west axis: ulam (entrance hall), heichal (main hall), and dvir (holy-of-holies). To reach the dvir three steps had to be mounted to an elevated platform, on which a one-meter high stone stele, painted red, stood. Stone altars, 50 cm. The temple in Arad was built according to the plan of the Tabernacle (illustration) described in the Bible and consisted of three parts: the inner courtyard, the temple and the Holy of Holies.

circa 950 BCE

Residential Quarters
Looking westwards, here some residential quarters were situated along the rear wall of the Arad Fortress. Under the Judaean kings, the citadel was periodically refortified, remodeled and rebuilt, until ultimately it was destroyed between 597 BCE and 577 BCE whilst Jerusalem was under siege by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II.

circa 950 BCE

Water Reservoir
A water reservoir cut into the rock beneath the citadel was filled with water from a well dug into the Canaanite reservoir south of the citadel. This well was 4.60 m. in diameter and 21 m. deep, to groundwater level, the upper part carefully lined with stones. The water drawn from the well was carried up the hill by pack animals to an opening in the wall of the citadel, and from there flowed in a channel to the reservoir.

circa 950 BCE

Roman Fortification Tower
Remains of the Roman tower inside the citadel. Over 100 ostraca inscribed in biblical Hebrew (in paleo-Hebrew script) were found in the citadel of Arad. This is the largest and richest collection of inscriptions from the biblical period ever discovered in Israel. The letters are from all periods of the citadel's existence, but most date to the last decades of the kingdom of Judah. Dates and several names of places in the Negev are mentioned, including Be'er Sheva.

circa 950 BCE

Lower Arad
The remains of ancient Arad and ancient Canaanite city of Arad are located in two separate areas and are from two distinct periods. The Canaanite city (3rd millennium BCE) was located mainly on the southern slope of the hill. On the summit of this hill, several fortresses were built in the period of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah (10th-6th centuries BCE) and also later, during the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman periods (5th century BCE to 4th century CE). It’s no surprise that Arad remained continually occupied and resettled through the centuries. Arad’s lower area of occupation represented a thirty-acre settlement from the Early Bronze period (3000-2300 BCE).


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