The biblical city of Ziklag in which David resided after fleeing the rage of King Saul has reportedly been unearthed in the Judaean foothills.
The dig, led by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, found the remains of buildings and Philistine-era artefacts beneath a burnt rural settlement from King David’s time.
In the ancient narrative, the city was gifted to David by the ruling Philistine King Achish of Gath, with the former shepherd and future king serving as Achsish’s vassal.
The Philistines — a feared enemy of the Israelites — are believed to have arrived in the region from the Mediterranean in the 12th century BC.
Ziklag went on to be burnt by Amalekite raiders when David was away fighting with the Philistine army.
Ziklag’s location has long been the subject of scientific debate, with 12 possible locations having previously been put forward from across southern Israel.
None of these sites, however, feature evidence of their having been consecutive Philistine and Israelite settlements, which would be needed to fit what is believed to be the historical narrative, said the Israeli Antiquities Authority in a statement.
Experts from the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Australia’s Macquarie University now report having unearthed Philistine-era buildings from under a rural settlement dated back to a time linked to the biblical King David.
Excavations at the Khirbet Al-Rai site, located near Kiryat Gat in central Israel, began in 2015.
Since then, archaeologists have found artefacts that are typical of the Philistine civilisation, Israeli Antiquities Authority said, as well as pottery vessels from the time associated with the biblical King.
Given this, the Israeli Antiquities Authority reportedly believe that the site is indeed Ziklag itself.
‘It is not 100 per cent sure, but I think it’s 90 per cent that this was biblical Ziklag,’ archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University told UPI.
Researchers have conducted digs in three main locations across the site, covering a combined area of 10,764 square feet (1,000 square metres).
Four houses have been located to date, one of which was found to contain a trove of more than 1,500 tools designed for the cutting of wheat, Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority told the AP.
Experts believe that the remains of the ancient city date back to between the 12th and 11th centuries BC.
Various artefacts were found among the ruins — including statues, vessels and other types of pottery — all of which match items of Philistine culture previously found in the ancient city-states of Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron and Gath.
The rural settlement that lay above Ziklag appeared to have suffered an unfortunate fate.
‘This settlement came to an end in an intense fire that destroyed the buildings,’ the Israeli Antiquities Authority reported.
‘Nearly one hundred complete pottery vessels were found in the various rooms.’
These including one that Mr Ganor said was used to serve beer.
‘The great range of complete vessels is testimony to the interesting everyday life during the reign of King David,’ the Israeli Antiquities Authority continued.
‘Large quantities of storage jars were found during the excavation — medium and large — which were used for storing oil and wine.’
Archaeologists believe that the Philistines arrived in Israel in the 12th century BC, having likely come from the Mediterranean, a suggestion supported by recently conducted DNA tests of bone samples which showed links to southern Europe.
The Philistines ruled what is today part of central and southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, and were a feared enemy of the Israelites.
According to the biblical narrative, David — not yet a king — came from the Kingdom of Israel to the coastal region was ruled by the Philistines seeking refuge from King Saul, who was trying to kill him.
As the first book of Samuel describes it, when Saul heard David was protected by the Philistine king Achish, who ruled from the city of Gath, ‘he sought him no more’.
David, under the guise of acting as a vassal of the Philistines, went on to request ‘a place in one of the country towns’ from King Achish.
He was then given the town of Ziklag, which went on to remain property of the Judean kings, the bible claims.
However, Ziklag was supposedly subsequently raided and burnt by a group of desert nomads called the Amalekites, who enslaved the inhabitants while David was away, encamped with the Philistine army for an attack on the Kingdom of Israel.
The finding of the burnt settlement at Khirbet Al-Rai would appear to support the notion that the site could represent the remains of Ziklag.
‘The name Ziklag is unusual in the lexicon of names in the Land of Israel, since it is not local Canaanite-Semitic,’ Professor Garfinkel told UPI.
‘It is a Philistine name, given to the town by an alien population of immigrants from the Aegean,’ he added.
The archaeological team plan to continue their research with further digs around Khirbet Al-Rai.
‘I hope it will be enough to clarify all the important aspects of the site,’ Professor Garfinkel said.
The finding of the town will ‘open some discussion’, archaeologist and historian Kyle Keimer of Macquarie University, Australia, told the AP.
‘It raises the question of the accuracy of the biblical text, but the higher question is how do we bring the text and the archaeology together,’ he added.