Top Three Reports in Biblical Archaeology – September 2020

This month, archaeologists in Israel presented some interesting theories to explain unique finds at Tel Azekah and Tel Kabri. In addition, excavators digging south of Jerusalem’s Old City unearthed some stunning artifacts that will likely make most of the “Top Ten Discoveries in 2020” lists that come out at the end of the year. Read on to learn more about the Top Three Reports in Biblical Archaeology for September 2020.

3.  Possible Assyrian Siege Ramp Unearthed at Azekah

A section of the wall at Tel Azekah that may have been modified by the Assyrians to use as a siege ramp. Photo: Benjamin Sitzmann / The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition

Archaeologists who excavated at Azekah recently announced that they believe they have found evidence of an Assyrian siege ramp from their campaign of 701 BC.  The team searched the southeastern corner of the tell, which was the area that was most vulnerable to attack, and discovered that the old Bronze Age wall appeared to be cut back on a 45-degree angle to create a ramp leading into the city.  In the fill at the bottom, excavators unearthed two 8th-century ritual chalices, similar to those depicted in Assyrian reliefs.  On the other side of the fortification wall, they discovered a counter-ramp built inside the city, a common defence against siege warfare in antiquity, and similar to the one known at Lachish.  No arrowheads or other evidence of war was uncovered; archaeologists surmise that small artifacts, such as arrowheads, have likely washed away down the steep slope over the millennia.  If this interpretation of the evidence is correct, it appears that the Assyrians may have “recycled” an ancient Bronze Age wall to use as their siege ramp to conquer Azekah, an event that is described in Assyrian sources.  In Scripture, Sennacherib’s campaign against the kingdom of Judah is described in 2 Kings 18, 2 Chron. 32, and Isaiah 36.


2. 3700-Year-Old Canaanite Palace Likely Destroyed By Earthquake

The Palatial structure at Tel Kabri which displayed evidence of an earthquake some 3700 years ago. Photo: George Washington University

Archaeologists excavating a 3700-year old Canaanite palace at the site of Tel Kabri in the Western Galilee region, believe the structure was abandoned after it was destroyed by an earthquake.  Tel Kabri is a 75-acre site containing a city which date from 1900-1700 BC.  According to the study, which was recently published in the journal PLOS ONE, excavators discovered that a previously-unearthed trench extended farther than originally thought.  Within the trench they discovered walls and floors tipping into it from either side, suggesting that the ground had shifted.  They also found warped plaster floors and dozens of storage jars that had been buried the collapsed deposits of material which appeared to have accumulated rapidly.  Furthermore, there were no weapons, mass graves or evidence of destruction by fire.  In addition, geographical research revealed that Tel Kabri lies on a 10km long fault that runs from the foothills of the Galilee Mountains, and across the coastal plain towards the Mediterranean coast.  The study’s authors have concluded that the sudden abandonment of the city was due to the site being severely damaged by an earthquake.


1.  Capitals from First-Temple-Era Palatial Structure Found in Jerusalem     

A 2700-year old capital in situ. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

Archaeologists excavating near the Armon Hanatziv Prominade, south of Jerusalem’s Old City, have discovered three decorated capitals in the remains of a palatial structure.  The capitals (column heads) exhibit a design that is known from the Kingdom of Judah.  The archaeologists were excited to find the first capital, and then surprised when they found a second one directly underneath it.  It appears that they had been intentionally buried.  A third, smaller capital, which likely decorated a window was found nearby.  The residence was dated to the seventh century BC based on the pottery found.  It was likely built after the siege of the Assyrians and before the destruction of the Babylonians.  Archaeologists believe it is evidence that the ruling class in Jerusalem felt confident enough to build villas and royal estates outside of the city walls.


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