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Archeologists discover fort in northern Israel dating back to King David

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The Israel Antiquities Authority’s archaeologists believe that the fort was built by the kingdom of Geshur, an ally of King David, in order to control the region

By ILANIT CHERNICK

In a once in a lifetime discovery, archeologists have discovered a fort dating back to the time of King David in Israel’s Golan Heights.

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the fortified complex, which is from the Iron Age, (11th-10th century BCE) was exposed for the first time in archaeological excavations carried out in Hispin in the Golan Heights.

The IAA archaeologists believe that the fort was built by the kingdom of Geshur, an ally of King David, in order to control the region. 

According to Barak Tzin and Enno Bron, IAA excavation directors at the site, the complex “was built at a strategic location on the small hilltop, above the El-Al canyon, overlooking the region, at a spot where it was possible to cross the river.”

Tzin explained that the 1.5 m wide fort walls, which were built out of large basalt boulders, “encompassed the hill.”
“During the excavation, we were astonished to discover a rare and exciting find: a large basalt stone with a schematic engraving of two-horned figures with outspread arms,” Bron continued, adding that “there may also be another object next to them.”

Above Image: Fertility figurine of a woman with a drum. (Credit:Yaniv Berman/Israel Antiquities Authority)
Feautured Image: Ofri Eitan of the “Kfar Hanasi” pre-military Academi next to the engraved stone. (Credit Tidhar Moav/Israel Antiquities Authority)

The IAA highlighted that in 2019, a figure carved on a cultic stone stele was found during the Bethsaida Expedition Project, which was directed by Dr.Rami Arav of Nebraska University.

The stele, found at the excavation in Bethsaida, located just north of the Sea of Galilee, had a horned figure with outspread arms on it and it was erected next to a raised platform or Bama, adjacent to the city gate. 

“This scene was identified by Arav as representing the Moon-God Cult,” the IAA explained. “The Hispin stone was located on a shelf next to the entrance, and not one, but two figures were depicted on it.” 

Both Tzin and Bron stressed that “it is possible that a person who saw the impressive Bethsaida stele decided to create a local copy of the royal stele.”

Scholars believe that Bethsaida, which was also a fortified city like that found recently in Hispin, was the capital of the Aramean kingdom of Geshur.

The IAA pointed out that Geshur ruled the central and southern Golan some 3,000 years ago and “according to the Bible, the kingdom upheld diplomatic and family relations with the House of David; one of David’s wives was Maacah, the daughter of Talmi, King of Geshur.”

Today, the cities of the Kingdom of Geshur are located along the Sea of Galilee, and they include Tel En Gev, Tel Hadar and Tel Sorag, however, there are hardly any sites connected to this age-old kingdom that are known to be in the Golan. 

“This unique fortified complex raises new research issues on the settlement of the Golan in the Iron Age,” Tzin and Bron concluded.

Addressing the next steps following this fascinating find, the IAA said that the fort complex will be developed into an open area along the El-Al river bank, “where educational-archaeological activities will be carried out, as part of the cultural heritage and a link with the past.” 

“This aligns with the Israel Antiquities Authority’s policy that learning the past through experiencing work in the field, strengthens the young generation’s bonds with their roots,” the IAA added. 

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