Students Unearth Rare Treasures at Lost Biblical City of Ziklag
A team of students working on what may be the long-lost biblical city of Ziklag have uncovered a hoard of rare objects at a site in Israel. Their finds are adding to the body of evidence that the location was the site of a city connected with the reign of King David.
Earlier this year, 32 archaeology students from the Macquarie University in Australia, began work at the archaeological site in Khirbet el-Rai. They were given a chance to work with archaeologists under the auspices of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, and six of the students were mentored by professional archaeologists.
In the field: Archaeology student Eva Rummery says the practical experience has helped her to pursue postgraduate study at Macquarie. (Macquarie University)
According to the Lighthouse, they “have been given the chance to make their mark on history by gaining hands-on experience in the field.” Some of the lucky students were even given their own excavation square to investigate. They have gained invaluable experience, which will help them in their future studies and careers.
Students Make Discoveries of Huge Significance
The dig was not just an opportunity to learn, but it was also a serious archaeological project. During work in the 1.7-hectare site of what was once a large urban settlement, the students made a series of discoveries that are potentially of huge significance. In particular, they came across a rare “Smiting god,” reports the Lighthouse. This is a bronze figurine, that represents the chief Canaanite god Baal. He is wearing a tall hat and striking an enemy.
Smiting statue of the god Baal found at the Ziklag site: The partially intact figurine wears a tall hat and would have had its right arm raised and its other arm held out in front, possibly holding a weapon such as a spear. (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
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The team uncovered some seals and a great deal of pottery shards. Also uncovered was a tiny bronze calf, which led them to speculation that it was somehow related to the story of the Golden Calf in the Book of Exodus. Cultic objects that came from Cyprus, a portable shrine and a bronze arrowhead were also uncovered. It is believed that the finds date to some 3,300 years ago, or between 1300 and 1200 BC.
Left: Just minutes after a seal is discovered among the dirt at the Ziklag excavation site, Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority holds the precious artifact up for the team to see. (Macquarie University) Right: Smiting statue: The partially intact figurine wears a tall hat and would have had its right arm raised and its other arm held out in front, possibly holding a weapon such as a spear. (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Burned to the Ground!
Naturally, the students and their mentors were delighted. Dr. Gil Davis, of Macquarie University, told Heritage Daily that “when we go on an archaeological excavation, we have high hopes and low expectations, but of course it’s wonderful when we make exciting finds.” The students have uncovered treasures that any professional archaeologist would have been proud to find.
The Macquarie undergraduates also excavated the layers of the ancient city. These layers include the remains of the city when it was a Canaanite, a Philistine and later an Israelite settlement. According to Lighthouse, “they have also found evidence of a fierce fire, burnt mud bricks, white ash, burnt wood and numerous destroyed ceramic vessels.” This would suggest that the city was burned to the ground at least once.
Evidence-based findings: Dr Sophia Aharonovich carries out a soil sample test at the Ziklag field site alongside student Edward Clancy. (Macquarie University)
Long-Lost City of King David
These finds are remarkable, and they may even help historians and archaeologists to resolve a long-running controversy. Some believe that Khirbet el-Rai is the site of Ziklag. This is a long-lost Philistine city that according to the Book of Samuel, was given by them to King David, the slayer of Goliath. The city was kept by David and he used it as a base when he was forging a new kingdom in the area.
The location of Ziklag has been lost for centuries, but many scholars now believe that Khirbet el-Rai is the site of the biblical city. Professor Yossi Garfinkel and Dr. Kyle Keimer, the co-directors of the dig argue that it is “chronologically the right time period and as we’ve excavated and discovered how significant this site was from a political, economic and geographical stance, we sought to identify it with a biblical site,” according to Heritage Daily.
The Mystery of the Biblical City of Ziklag Solved?
Some 12 other sites have been proposed as the location of the city mentioned in the Old Testament. However, scholars such as Garfinkel and Keimer believe that there are issues with all of them, and they are almost certainly not the biblical city of Ziklag.
Keimer told Heritage Daily that the other candidates for the long-lost city “have one issue or another with them whether it be chronological, archaeological or geographical.” However, the artifacts unearthed by the students support the argument that the site at Khirbet el-Rai is the city once ruled by King David.
It is clear that the students have had the experience of a lifetime. Not only have they learned important research and life skills, they have also made important contributions to archaeology. As Prof. Garfinkel told the Lighthouse “most of the discoveries at this site are thanks to the cooperation of Macquarie University.”
The finds of the figurines and the other objects could help to finally prove that Khirbet el-Rai is the actual site of the long-lost city of Ziklag, which played an important part in the Old Testament.
Top image: Macquarie student Hannah Newman discovered the bronze calf figurine during the last week of the excavation at the Ziklag site. Source: Macquarie University
By Ed Whelan