Tel Be'ersheva

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Tel Sheva, Tel Be'er Sheva, or Tell es-Seba (تل السبع) the Arabic name of an archaeological site in southern Israel/Palestine believed to be the remains of the biblical town of Beersheba.


Tel Beer-sheba, the site of the ancient city, is located on a hill overlooking the Wadi Beer-sheba about two and a half miles east of the modern city of Beersheba. The site was excavated from 1969 to 1976 by the Tel Aviv University Institute of Archaeology, directed by Prof. A considerable part of the site was dug down to bedrock in order to find the earliest settlements at Beer-sheba.

Notable Structures

circa 1000 BCE

The gate of Beersheba was constructed with two rooms flanking the passageway. Benches were discovered along the walls of one of the rooms. All the city's streets intersected at the gate, which served in the defense of the city and as a meeting place and the seat of the judges.

The gate (illustration) of Tel Beer-sheba is adjacent to a water well. Beer-sheba is the site of two significant wells: Abraham's well at Beer-sheba was seized by Abimelech's men (Genesis 21:25), and Isaac's servants dug a well at Beer-sheba also (Genesis 26:25). This gate was a secondary protection, in addition to the main inner gate. It was part of the stratum 4/5 city, but later dismantled.

circa 1000 BCE

Four Room House
The typical Israelite four-room house in the Iron Age I & II Periods (1200-586 BCE) consisted of three elongated spaces running parallel each other and a fourth one perpendicular to the other three. These types of houses can be seen throughout Israel/Palestine, even at Avaris in Egypt centuries before where prototypes were uncovered. A number of dwellings at Beer-Sheva were planned as four-room houses and most had an open space in front of them. A life-size replica of such houses was constructed at the Harvard Semitic Museum, titled The Houses of Ancient Israel.

circa 1000 BCE

The store-house is located near the main gate. The 600 square meters structure is divided into three long halls, divided by two rows of stone pillars. Hundreds of ceramic vessels were found in the ruins of the storehouse. The Bible writes about Hezekiah who built such storehouses, and this may have been one of the storage complexes which he built, (2 chronicles 32:27-29). The fragments of the four-horned altar were also found incorporated in the walls of the store house.

circa 1000 BCE

Horned Altar
One of the most significant discoveries at Tel Beer-sheba is that of a horned animal altar, the first ever unearthed in Israel. Altars with horns at each of their four corners are mentioned frequently in the Bible (Lev. 4:7, 18, 25; Ex. 29:12, 30:2; 38:2; 1 Kings 1:50; 2:28). The altar was not found assembled in situ, but was discovered in secondary use—the stones of the altar had later been incorporated into a wall.

Connection with the Biblical Narrative

circa 1000 BCE

Some scholars have identified this well with the one mentioned in the Book of Genesis. "The Abimelech came to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath, one of this friends, and Phichol the commander of this army. And Isaac said to them, 'why have you come me, since you hate me and have sent me away from you?' But they said, 'we have certainly seen the lord is with you.' So we said, 'let there now be an oath between us, between you and us; and let us make a covenant with you...' It came to pass the same day that Isaac's servants came and told him about the well which they had dug,and said to him, 'we have found water.' So he called it Shebah. Therefore the name of the city is Beersheba to this day. " -Genesis 26:26-28.

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