Perhaps no other Philistine city can be as closely associated with the earliest lore of the Israelite tribes as Tell es-Safi, identified as Biblical Gath. The Bible describes Gath as one of the five cities of the Philistines and the home of the giant Goliath. David fled to the city of Gath when he was being chased by the vengeful Saul, and the Ark of the Covenant was said to have been brought here when it was captured by the Philistines during the battle of Ebenezer. Without question, the Philistines of Gath were key players in the formation of Israelite and Judahite identity.
One of the largest multi-periods tells in the Levant, Tell es-Safi/Gath boasts impressive remains from the Proto-historic (Early Bronze Age) through modern times. In past seasons, the Tell es-Safi excavations have uncovered important evidence for the Philistine occupation of the site, including houses, cultic finds, rare Philistine burials and the so-called “Goliath” inscription—a small sherd inscribed with two non-Semitic names possibly related to the name Goliath. They have also revealed evidence of the destruction wrought by King Hazael of Damascus during the late ninth century B.C. and the massive siege system he employed to conquer the site—the oldest known system of its kind in the world. Additional finds in recent seasons include a large, stone altar with two horns, and a unique ivory bowl. In the coming seasons, we will focus on the excavations of the lower city, and in particular the remains of the Iron Age I and II (ca. 1100–830 B.C.E.) remains, including the massive fortifications and gate, and various public and private buildings.
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Halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon in southern Israel
Prehistoric to Modern
Aren Maeir, a former captain in the Israeli army, heads the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, which began in 1996. He has also excavated at Hazor, Beth Shean and Qasile and directed archaeological excavations and surveys in Jerusalem (the Western Wall Tunnels, Mamilla, Kikar Safra, Malha), the Beth Shean Valley and Tel Yavneh. He is currently chairman of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University. Dr. Maeir has published more than 80 studies, both popular and scholarly, and recently authored Bronze and Iron Age Tomb Finds at Tel Gezer, Israel (Archaeopress, 2004).