Excavators found the possible evidence of the earliest fortified settlement in the Golan Heights— located in the Levant—dating back to the time of King David, who was described in the Hebrew Bible as the third king of the United Monarchy of Israel and Judah.
The excavation team found the settlement accidentally while working on a construction site. Later, rock projecting two figures, holding their arms aloft, were discovered inside the unique fort that was according to researchers dated to about 11th to 9th century BCE.
The discovery has been linked to the Geshurite people—inhabitants of Geshur, which was a territory in the northern part of Bashan, adjoining the province of Argob and the kingdom of Aram or Syria—whose capital is recorded in the Bible as having been located close-by, to the north of the Sea of Galilee.
Barak Tzin who was involved in the excavation said that when the incredible rock etching was found near the entrance of the thousands of year-old fort, "we understood that we had something very, very important" and became amazed to discover "a rare and exciting find: a large basalt stone with a schematic engraving of two-horned figures with outspread arms".
As reported, next to the etching a stone table or shelf was discovered and archaeologists believe that was an altar—a table used as the focus for a religious ritual—and another seemingly ritual object of a small figure holding that looks like a drum was found. However, archaeologists still trying to understand who built the fort with almost 1.5-meter-wide walls.
IAA's scientific adviser in the northern region Ron Be'eri said when Egyptian and Hittite empires are destroyed, there was no historian to write about the era. "We return to a sort-of 'pre-history' in which we only have physical artifacts to base our assumptions. So, we go into the realm of speculation. It is impossible to know what really happened," he added.
The Location of the Fort
As per Be'eri, since the small fort was built on a hilltop, suggesting that it would have served as a high-altitude checkpoint to keep the watching strategic river-crossing location above the El-Al River canyon, its location indicates an era of conflict and struggle for control that started after the fall of northern Hittite empire around 1180 BCE.
The dating of the archaeological site, between 11th and 9th century BCE, was made based on the physical evidence, most specifically on the findings of pottery sherds that indicate the early Iron Age and can be compared to those found at Israelite sites such as Tel Megiddo that are dated to around 11th-10th centuries BCE, said Be'eri.
According to the archaeologist, it is possible that the fort belonged to the Geshurite people, or another Aramean group—as there is some physical evidence of these people. There is no outside textual documentation other than a various commendation of these people in the Hebrew Bible, but Be'eri said the problem is biblical text is not a historical document. The text was written by "lines of kings who had their own agenda. Therefore, we must rely on physical artifacts", said Be'eri.
In the Bible, Geshur is noted through the marriage of Geshur King Talmai's daughter Maachah to King David. Geshur is also mentioned as a place of refuge to King David and Maachah's son, Absalom, after the murder of his half-brother Amnon.
As per IAA, other notable Geshur cities were found along the Sea of Galilee shore, including Tel Hadar, Tel En Gev, and Tel Sorag, but in the Golan such sites are rare. However, according to Be'eri, the recently found site's importance is very clear as is considered a "national treasure" which must be conserved. "This site is a national treasure and the IAA is going to do everything it can to make sure it is not hit, too," said Be'eri.