The Solomonic Gate at Gezer

Questions arise regarding Gezer’s so-called Solomonic gate


A Solomonic gate at Gezer? William Dever thought so and called it that, but leaders of a renewed excavation at Gezer are not taking any previous interpretations for granted—nor the terminology used to describe the various finds. Photo: Courtesy Steve Ortiz.

A Solomonic gate stands at Gezer—or does it? Legendary archaeologist and former Gezer dig director William Dever thought so. That Gezer was home to a Solomonic gate was not questioned in the 1970s by the Hebrew Union College excavation team. So why have Steve Ortiz and Sam Wolff returned to Gezer, and why are they questioning whether its famous gate should be considered a Solomonic gate?

The answer is simple: The renewed excavation—now in its seventh season—does not want to make any assumptions from the past or bring in any preconceived ideas as the directors undertake their exploration. This includes the terminology Ortiz and Wolff use to refer to the six-chambered, Iron Age city gate at Gezer. In their Archaeological Views column “In the Shadow of Solomon (and Everyone Else)” in the July/August 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, excavation codirectors Steve Ortiz and Sam Wolff describe the fresh questions they are bringing to the famous site of Gezer.

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In 1871 Gezer was first identified by Charles Clermont-Ganneau, but the first excavation did not take place until 1902 when Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister began a seven-year large-scale project under the sponsorship of the Palestine Exploration Fund. From 1964–1974 G. Ernest Wright, William Dever and Joe Seger staged another excavation using more modern archaeological methods on behalf of Hebrew Union College and the Harvard Semitic Museum. William Dever returned to the site, this time sponsored by the University of Arizona, in 1984 and 1990. Both Ortiz and Wolff were part of one of these earlier excavation teams and are familiar with the conclusions drawn by them.

Before commencing this renewed expedition to Gezer, Wolff and Ortiz invited William Dever to the site to talk about its history and ruminate about its future. However, this conversation was not intended to dictate the upcoming investigation. “Bill is a legendary archaeologist—we respect him and his thoughts,” state Ortiz and Wolff, “but this was our project, and we had our own research agenda; different questions are being asked today than in the 1960s and 1970s.” These new questions provide the focus for the renewed excavations.

While maintaining a strong connection to the past, and a respect for those who have come to Gezer before them—both ancient and modern—Wolff and Ortiz will not be taking anything for granted. They intend to be fresh eyes for a fresh approach to an old site.

For more on Steve Ortiz and Sam Wolff’s process for excavating at Gezer, read the full Archaeological Views column “In the Shadow of Solomon (and Everyone Else)” in the July/August 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.


BAS Library Members: Read the full Archaeological Views column “In the Shadow of Solomon (and Everyone Else)” by Steve Ortiz and Sam Wolff as it appears in the July/August 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.


Related reading in Bible History Daily:

The “High Place” at Tel Gezer

Tel Gezer Water System Built by Canaanites?

High Places, Altars and the Bamah

Gezer Excavations Uncover Previously Unknown Canaanite City

Cave Found at Bottom of Gezer Water Tunnel

Bilingual Boundary Stone Discovered at Tel Gezer

What’s the Oldest Hebrew Inscription? A Reply to Christopher Rollston


Related reading in the BAS Library:

Hershel Shanks, “The Sad Case of Tell Gezer,” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 1983.

Kenneth A. Kitchen, “How We Know When Solomon Ruled,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2001.

“Commemorating a Covenant,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2015.


Posted in Ancient Israel, Archaeologists, Biblical Scholars & Works.

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  • Kurt says

    Archaeological digging first began at this tell early in the 20th century. Since then it has become one of the most thoroughly excavated and explored sites in Palestine. Among the finds there are the “Solomonic gate and casemate wall,” built upon a layer of destruction debris that some conjecture to be the result of Pharaoh’s burning of Gezer. Its architecture is considered to be so similar to that found in structures at Hazor and Megiddo as to indicate that all three were built from the same plans. Earlier strata show Philistine pottery in abundance. Perhaps the most famous find to come out of Tell Jezer, however, is the Gezer “calendar,” a plaque containing what appear to be a schoolboy’s memory exercises. It has proved to be of value by informing modern researchers of ancient Israel’s agricultural seasons and providing a glimpse into the Hebrew script and language of Solomon’s day.

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