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Archaeologists Excavate Legendary City of Dan

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Bianca Markos
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« on: January 03, 2012, 02:51:31 am »

Archaeologists Excavate Legendary City of Dan

Wed, Dec 28, 2011



The monumental Biblical city is yielding more of its secrets to archaeologists.
Archaeologists Excavate Legendary City of Dan

Looking at the remains today, it is difficult to believe that only a fraction of this monumental ancient site has been uncovered. Yet it has far and away yielded some of the most impressive discoveries of Near Eastern, or Levantine, archaeology. Here, according to the Biblical account, ancient Israel established one of its great temples. And here, late Neolithic people first settled as early as 4500 B.C.E., and Bronze Age inhabitants constructed the world’s oldest known gated archway.

Known today as Tell el-Qadi, more popularly as "Tel Dan", the site is located near Mount Hermon in Northern Israel adjacent to one of the sources of the Jordan River. The 'Tel', or mound, was defined very early on during the Middle Bronze period when massive defensive ramparts were constructed, encircling the city. Although the ramparts rise about 20 meters from the surrounding surface area, the interior of the site is actually as much as 10 meters lower than the tops of the ramparts. It was first identified based on historical records as the city of Laish, a town allied with the Phoenician Sidonians and later renamed "Dan" after the early Isrealite tribe of Dan, which conquered and settled it as documented in the Book of Judges. Thanks to a bilingual Greek and Aramaic inscription found at the site in 1976, this city name has been confirmed. Translated, that inscription reads, “To the God who is in Dan, Zoilos made a vow.” Ancient Egyptian texts and cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia document Dan’s significance during the second millennium B.C.E.  Later, during the Iron Age, Aramaeans, Israelites, and Assyrians fought over this city. Dan was a recognized cultic center even into the Greco-Roman period.

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Bianca Markos
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« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2012, 02:54:36 am »



Section of rampart at Tel Dan.  Ani Nimi,  Wikimedia Commons
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Bianca Markos
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« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2012, 02:55:07 am »

Although the site was first identified by Edward Robinson in 1838, the best known excavations of the site began in 1966 under the late Israeli archaeologist Avraham Biran, and it was under his direction that the most spectacular discoveries were made. His team of excavators uncovered a mud-brick city gate (pictured right) dated to around 1750 BCE (the Middle Bronze period), the time of the Biblical patriarchs. It is popularly known as Abraham's gate because, according to the Biblical account, Abraham journeyed to Dan to rescue his nephew Lot. They also uncovered an Israelite temple, thought by Biblical scholars to be the temple built by Jeroboam, King of Israel after the United Monarchy split into Israel in the north and Judah to the south. It was this temple where, according to the Bible, he housed the golden calf and challenged the temple in Jerusalem as a religious center of Israel. Additionally, an elaborate Israelite gate was discovered, consisting of an upper gate and a lower gate, each featuring inner and outer gates and plazas. Arguably the most sensational find, however, was the discovery of parts of a basalt stone stele bearing an inscription containing a declaration by a king of Damascus (possibly Hazael, c. 840 BCE, or Ben-Hadad, c. 802 BCE). Translated, it proclaims his military victory and destruction of at least some parts of the Kingdom of Israel, and the killing of two kings of Israel. Notably, it contains the phrase "House of David" ["......and I killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin]g of the House of David"], a phrase rarely, if at all, seen in any extra-biblical context. Today, many Levantine archaeologists and scholars agree that it refers to a royal dynasty of David and that the Tel Dan Stele therefore represents tangible evidence that there was indeed a "kingdom", or royal dynasty, of David. (See more photos of Tel Dan below)

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Bianca Markos
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« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2012, 02:55:30 am »

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« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2012, 02:55:54 am »



Plaza of the outer gate of the Iron Age II Israelite gate complex, looking toward the gate. Photo credit: Ronald A. Simkins and the Virtual World Project
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Bianca Markos
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« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2012, 02:56:13 am »



Chamber in the upper gate of the Israelite gate complex. Photo credit: Ronald A. Simkins and Virtual World Project
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« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2012, 02:56:35 am »



Stone altar in a side room of the Iron Age II upper gate complex. Photo credit: Ronald A. Simkins and the Virtual World Project
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« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2012, 02:56:54 am »



View of the monumental stairway to the temple platform. Photo credit: Ronald A. Simkins and the Virtual World Project
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« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2012, 02:57:17 am »



Monumental steps to the temple platform. Photo credit: Ronald A. Simkins and Virtual World Project
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« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2012, 02:57:38 am »



Bordered ashlars of the temple platform. Photo credit: Ronald A. Simkins and the Virtual World Project.
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« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2012, 02:58:03 am »

Much more is left to explore. A team of archaeologists, students and volunteers plan to return to the site in 2012 under the directorship of David Ilan of the Hebrew Union College, Ryan Byrne of Rhodes College and Nili Fox of HUC-JIR/Cincinnati. They will expand upon what has already been accomplished, exploring the 90 percent of the site yet to be uncovered. Reports the expedition staff:

 

    Millennia of human occupation at Tel Dan during the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Greco-Roman, Medieval and Ottoman periods have resulted in numerous cities superimposed on one another with countless artifacts deposited at the site. Archaeology has only revealed the tip of the iceberg, but much of what has surfaced is extraordinary. In addition to the House of David inscription, the triple-arched mudbrick gate, and the Israelite temple complex, professional archaeologists and volunteers alike have made several thousand discoveries. [1]

 

Among other things, excavations at Tel Dan have provided a kind of "open-book" on the past in this part of the Levant. Inscriptions found thus far imply more to come. "Texts allow us to glimpse the thoughts and cultures of real human beings in their own words", reports the team. "Tel Dan has been very generous in this respect. In addition to the 'House of David' and 'God Who Is in Dan' inscriptions, we have a nice collection of inscribed specimens, especially from the Israelite occupation." Inscriptions revealing personal names have been found on pottery vessels and jar handles. For example, one Phoenician script incised on a pottery shard reads “belonging to Baalpalt,” and another, in Hebrew script, “belonging to Amotz.” The inscriptions were created while the clay was wet during the jars' manufacture. Two others, in the form of seal impressions (used to denote ownership) on jar handles, read “belonging to Immadiyaw,” a northern dialect Hebrew name, and "Zakariyaw", or Zechariah. The Immadiyaw inscription was found within an Assyrian destruction layer dated to 732 BCE, the approximate year of Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III's campaign against the northern Israelite city. [1]   

Key questions remain to be answered. Who were the prehistoric people who first settled in this region long before the Biblical period?  Why and how did Dan remain a significant religious center well into the Greco-Roman period, long after the time of the ancient Israelites? And from the Biblical perspective, how do the materials left behind shed light on what became of the "lost tribe" of Dan and the other tribes of Israel north of the kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem? A tomb dating to the Late Bronze Age, (14th - 13th century BCE), contained an unusual assemblage of ceramic vessels in the Mycenaean style. Does this present evidence of trade relations between the people of Dan and people as far away as mainland Greece? Archaeologists hope to be able to address these questions and many more in the coming excavation seasons.

Individuals interested in participating in the Tel Dan expedition should contact Levana Zias at

http://www.ngsba.org/en/component/contact/12-contacts/4-levana-zias- for more information.

A noteworthy virtual tour of the Tel Dan excavation site can be obtained by visiting the Virtual World Project website at http://www.virtualworldproject.org/vr/.

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[1] http://teldan.wordpress.com/discoveries/

Cover Photo, Top Left: The outer wall of the Iron Age II gate complex with projecting towers. Photo credit Ronald A. Simkins and the Virtual World Project.

Photo, third from top, right: Front view of the Middle Bronze II mud brick gate at Tel Dan.  Ani Nimi,  Wikimedia Commons

http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/december-2011/article/archaeologists-excavate-legendary-city-of-dan
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