Tel Lachish

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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Lachish was an ancient and historical city that existed in the Shephelah (lowlands of Judea) region of Israel, on the southern side of the Lakhish River. It had a Canaanite and Israelite heritage and is mentioned multiple times in the Bible. The biblical city of Lachish is identified with the archaeological site, a mound called tel Lachish, on the edge of Wadi Lachish, along which ran the main road from the coastal plain to the Hebron Mountains.


Settlement began here in the Neolithic period (circa sixth millennium BCE). In the Canaanite period (circa late second millennium BCE) Lachish was a key city in the south of the country. During the Judahite monarchy (the ninth century BCE), Lachish was extensively fortified and became the second most important city in the kingdom after Jerusalem, the then capital. Lachish rose to center stage when it became a battleground in two major events in the First Temple period. The first event was its conquest by the Assyrian king Sennacherib in 701 BCE. The second was the Babylonian conquest by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE, which led to the desctruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem and the end of the Kingdom of Judah. Lachish was finally abandoned after the Hellenistic period (circa 332-63 BCE).

Ruins and remains of the structures visible today mostly date back to the time of King Hezekiah. These structures were destroyed in Sennacherib's conquest of the city, which is documented in the Bible, Assyrian inscriptions and on reliefs in Sennacherib's palace in Nineveh.

Brief History

circa 700 BCE

Assyrian Siege of Lachish
During the Assyrian siege the inhabitants of the city of Lachish began to take steps to counter the assault, evacuating the inhabitants of the dwellings near the focus of the Assyrian attack. The defenders of Lachish covered these dwellings with earth and limestone rocks from inner side of the wall, creating a counter ramp against the Assyrian siege ramp to strengthen the wall and create the foundation of another line of defence. In this area the wall was preserved almost to its original height. Hundreds of arrowheads discovered here attest to the Assyrian firepower aimed at the city's defences.

During the siege the Assyrian king Sennacherib setup his main camp at Lachish (2 Chronicles 32:9-19). From here he sent an expeditionary force to Jerusalem to defeat king Hezekiah, who, backed by the prophet Isaiah, refused to surrender. According to the biblical story, Jerusalem was saved by a miracle. According to the fifth century BCE Greek historian Herodotus, a plague of mice devoured the Assyrians' weapons and when they found themselves defenseless, they decided to stop the fighting. Hezekiah continued to rule Judah, but subjugated himself to Sennacherib and paid a heavy tribute to the Assyrian Kings. The Assyrian camp was probably established on the site of present-day Moshav Lachish.

Notable Structures

circa 727-698 BCE

City Gate
The gate complex dates back to the Middle Bronze Age and was adjacent to a small fortress. It was discoverd in 2013 CE, a fourth expedition to Lachish under the direction of Yosef Garfinkel. During the fifth expedition, running from 2015 to 2016, a gate shrine of Level III, destroyed during the Assyrian assault and a toilet installation were found in the eastern most chamber of the inner gate. It has been suggested that the toilet, in a gate shrine, was part of Hezekiah's campaign against idolatry. Two altars in the shrine also had their horns damaged in possible desecration.

circa 700 BCE

Assyrian Siege Ramp
The Assyrian army built a huge stone ramp against the city walls, of wich not much remains. This ramp allowed the attackers to bring up battering ram to breach the wall. The base of the ramp remains visible today were about seventy meters wide and sixteen meters high.

As in other places in the city, here too, at the upper part of the ramp, concentrations of arrowheads were found that had been fired by the Assyrian army. Excavations at the foot of the wall uncovered pieces of objects that had been thrown from the top of the wall at the Assyrians by the city's defenders, such as olive oil press weights and an iron chain.

This is the oldest known siege ramp in the world, and the only Assyrian siege ramp known to date in the Near East.

circa 700 BCE

Many houses were uncovered throughout the center of the city (the remains of the dwellings have been reburied in order to preserve them). These meagre residential structures were densely built, without a unified plan, containing small rooms and courtyards, and they seem to have been quite poor. Most of them were used as dwellings but some may have been workshops and shops. Stone benches were found in houses, as well as ovens, pits and a large variety of household vessels for cooking, storage, domestic crafts, etc. In some of the houses concentration of arrowheads was disovered dating back to the battle waged against the Assyrians.

circa 700 BCE

Royal Palace
The palace apparently seems to have served as the seat of the city's governor representing the king of Judah. The palace hosted visiting kings and it may be assumed that king Amaziah (who ruled Judah between 798 and 769 BCE) fled here from Jerusalem and was murdered here.

The huge palace complex from the time of King Hezekiah extended over more than 12.5 dunams (1.25 hectares) and included a large courtyard, a central building (illustration) and auxiliary structures that may have served as storerooms or stables. From the cental structure, which covered an area of 2.5 dunams (0.25 hectares), only the foundation has survived today.

The palace was constructed in three stages during the ninth and eighth centuries BCE, during which it was extended to the south and east.


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