Has the legendary citadel captured by King David been found?
An Israeli archaeologist claims to have located the citadel supposedly captured by King David in his conquest of Jerusalem. However, the controversial discovery has reignited the debate about using the bible to identify ancient ruins and critics say that political agendas should not be mixed with archaeology.
Although the area which is now known as the city of Jerusalem has been inhabited for some 5,000 – 6,000 years, there are some who believe that the history of Jerusalem began with David’s conquest in 1052 BC. David was a newly anointed king when he set his sights on Jerusalem for the capital of his kingdom. According to Biblical accounts, David captured the city, which was inhabited by the Jebusites, by means of deception. He snuck a few chosen men into the citadel, and they then threw open the gates to David’s waiting army. The major consequence of David’s capture of Jerusalem is that it began Jewish rule in the city.
Now archaeologist Eli Shukron, formerly a researcher with the Israel Antiquities Authority, claims to have found the citadel at the City of David archaeological site, where he has been carrying out excavations for nearly two decades. So far, Shukron and others have uncovered a massive fortification of five-ton stones stacked 21 feet (6 metres) wide. Pottery shards helped date the fortification walls to be 3,800 years old. The fortification, which was built 800 years before King David would have captured it from its Jebusite rulers, surrounded a water spring and is thought to have protected the ancient city's water source.
In the second Book of Samuel, David orders the capture of the walled city by entering it through the water shaft. Shukron's excavation uncovered a narrow shaft where spring water flowed into a carved pool, thought to be where city inhabitants would gather to draw water. Excess water would have flowed out of the walled city through another section of the shaft Shukron said he discovered — where he believes the city was penetrated.
Eli Shukron believes the ancient fortification is the citadel stormed by King David and his army. Credit: AP
"This is the citadel of King David, this is the Citadel of Zion, and this is what King David took from the Jebusites," said Shukron. "The whole site we can compare to the Bible perfectly."
Doron Spielman, vice president of the non-profit organisation, the Elad Foundation, which oversees the archaeological park, added: "We open the Bible and we see how the archaeology and the Bible actually come together in this place." He carried a softcover Bible in his hand as he strolled around the excavation.
Critics say that some archaeologists are too eager to hold a spade in one hand and a Bible in the other in a quest to verify the biblical narrative — either due to religious beliefs or to prove the Jewish people's historic ties to the land.
The site has come under criticism because of the Elad Foundation's nationalistic agenda. The Foundation settles Jews in guarded homes in Arab areas of East Jerusalem in an attempt to prevent the city from being divided. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as the capital of a future independent state.
Archaeologist Ronny Reich, disagrees with Shukron’s theory and said more pottery from the 10 th century BC would have been found if the fortification had been in use at the time King David supposedly captured the citadel. Reich explained that much more archaeological evidence is needed before any conclusions could be drawn and warns against mixing archaeology with political agendas.
Featured image: Eli Shukron standing inside the massive fortification. Credit: AP