King David’s Palace at Khirbet Qeiyafa?

Bible and archaeology news

The palatial structure David and a Byzantine farmhouse at Khirbet Qeiyafa. Photo: Sky View, courtesy of the Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Israel Antiquities Authority’s (IAA) July 18, 2013, press release is crowned with an extraordinary headline: “King David’s Palace was Uncovered in the Judean Shephelah.” At the close of the seventh season of excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the Hebrew University Professor Yosef Garfinkel and IAA archaeologist Saar Ganor announced the discovery of “the two largest buildings known to have existed in the tenth century B.C.E. in the Kingdom of Judah” with great fanfare. One of these buildings is a centrally located 100-foot-long palatial structure decorated with elegant imported vessels. Garfinkel told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that “there is no question that the ruler of the city sat here, and when King David came to visit the hills he slept here.” The other structure, a pillared storeroom, features hundreds of storage jars “stamped with an official seal as was customary in the Kingdom of Judah for centuries,” according to the IAA press release.

Khirbet Qeiyafa has produced numerous exciting and controversial finds (see links below) that have kept the Biblical archaeology world buzzing. Overlooking the Valley of Elah in the Judean foothills, the fortified Judahite site of Qeiyafa, on the border with the Philistines, has produced persuasive evidence to support the kingship of David at the beginning of Iron Age II, when the Bible says he ruled. The unique presence of two gates at the site has led Garfinkel to identify it as Biblical Sha’arayim, which means “two gates” in Hebrew.

Khirbet Qeiyafa archaeologists Yosef Garfinkel, Michael Hasel and Martin Klingbeil discuss the latest finds from the 2013 season in the November/December 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, and set their sights on the site of Tel Lachish for the 2014 season. Read more about the article and their discoveries in Bible History Daily.


Vessels from Khirbet Qeiyafa. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

However, some scholars are skeptical of Garfinkel’s claims. Garfinkel has used evidence from Qeiyafa to argue that David and Solomon ruled over a well-organized and fully urbanized Judahite state in the tenth century B.C.E. Last year, Tel Aviv University’s Israel Finkelstein and Alexander Fantalkin published the article “Khirbet Qeiyafa: An Unsensational Archaeological and Historical Interpretation” critiquing Garfinkel’s methods, chronology and interpretations, and Foundation Stone codirector David Willner published an immediate response after today’s press release calling the announcement “unabashed sensationalism.”

The dramatic headline is sure to elicit a great deal of debate. Khirbet Qeiyafa is an undoubtedly important site, and we look forward to an imminent archaeological discussion on the newly uncovered palatial structure.

Read the Israel Antiquities Authority Press Release.

Eilat Mazar’s excavations in Jerusalem’s City of David uncovered massive structures from the era associated with King David. Read Did I Find King David’s Palace? by Eilat Mazar online for free as it appeared in the January/February 2006 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

The Hebrew Bible makes it clear that King David and his successors were buried somewhere on the narrow ridge of the City of David near the Gihon Spring where the earliest city of Jerusalem was located. But where exactly? Find out more in King David’s Tomb–A Closer Look.


Learn More about Khirbet Qeiyafa in Bible History Daily:

Khirbet Qeiyafa and Tel Lachish Excavations Explore Early Kingdom of Judah

Qeiyafa Ostracon Relates the Birth of the Kingdom of Israel

Breaking News—Evidence of Cultic Activity in Judah Discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa

The Great Minimalist Debate

New Images from Khirbet Qeiyafa Excavations

The Oldest Hebrew Script and Language


Learn More about Khirbet Qeiyafa in the BAS Library

Yosef Garfinkel, Michael Hasel and Martin Klingbeil, “An Ending and a Beginning: Why we’re leaving Qeiyafa and going to Lachish,Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2013.

Gerard Leval, “Ancient Inscription Refers to the Birth of Israelite Monarchy,Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2012.

Christopher Rollston, “What’s the Oldest Hebrew Inscription?” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2012.

Hershel Shanks, “Newly Discovered: A Fortified City from King David’s Time,Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2009.

Yosef Garfinkel, “The Birth & Death of Biblical Minimalism,Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2011.

Yosef Garfinkel, “Another View: Christopher Rollston’s Methodology of Caution,Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2012.

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  • FRANCES says

    Israel Finkelstein’s article has yet to be produced online and some of us are very interested in reading it. Israel? how about it? Get it out here?

  • Brent says

    A couple of years ago I sent an e-mail to Yosef Garfinkel which highlighted the similarities between the Madaba map and the excavation site at Khirbet Qeiyafa. The Madaba map is supposed to be mosaic map of the holy land in the sixth century CE. But if you overlay the map onto a picture of the Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation site it almost fits exactly. My question to Yosef Garfinkel was, could Khirbet Qeiyafa be the former city of Jersualem before it was destroyed by Nebuchanezzar? His response was the Madaba map was sixth century of course. It is interesting though that Garfinkel now claims the site could be one of David’s palaces.

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