The gateway to Goliath's hometown

Archologists find fortifications of the biblical city of Gat

Except for the foundations: of the once monumental city walls of Gat are left only remains of the foundations. © Aren Maeir, Director, Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath
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Monumental find from biblical times: archaeologists have uncovered remains of the city gate of the biblical city of Gat. The then capital of the Philistines and hometown of the warrior Goliath was a major center of power in the region and had correspondingly impressive defenses. But even these monumental walls could not avert the siege and destruction of Gat.

The city of Gat was one of the major centers of power in the region of present-day Israel during biblical times. Until the ninth century BC, it was the largest city of the Philistine people. The biblical story of the most famous warrior of this city, the supposedly gigantic Goliath, and his defeat to David illustrate the rivalry of the Philistines with the Kingdom of Israel. However, the hill of Gat was already inhabited for a long time before these events: traces of the settlement go back almost completely up to 5, 000 years before the beginning of our era.

Monumental city gate

However, the year 830 BC saw the end of this mighty city: Aramaeans under King Hazael besieged Gat and destroyed the city after their victory. This siege also fell victim to the then enormous defenses of Goliath's hometown. Remnants of these facilities have now been unearthed by archaeologists Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan.

In particular, the city gate had truly monumental proportions: According to the archaeologists, it is the largest gate that has been found during excavations in Israel. However, only the foundations have remained. However, their size indicates the high status of the city and how much influence Gat had at that time. The city wall adjoining the gate had similarly impressive proportions.

Aerial view of the remains of defenses of the former capital of the Philistines. Griffin Aerial Imaging

Beyond this gate and the wall, archologists found remains of other previously undiscovered buildings. Among them are, among other things, a temple and an iron workshop. Even these important buildings destroyed the Aram er after the siege. display

Prominent inscriptions?

The story of Gat is relatively well-known in two ways: For 20 years, archaeologists, led by Maeir, have been researching the Tell es-Safi site, halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon. They discovered the oldest ever found inscription of the Philistines. It may refer to the most prominent inhabitants of Gat: On two potsherds can be found names from which the name Goliath may have originated.

Among other things, the archaeologists were able to reconstruct the end of the city from the point of view of the besiegers: around the ruins of Gat they found remnants of the plants erected by the Arameans under Hazael. It is the oldest known siege system.

Remains of Gat fortifications Aren Maeir, Director, Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath

Finds coincide with biblical evocations

The second source is biblical evocations: because of their great importance, many biblical authors describe the capital of the Philistines in different contexts. The city gate also appears in a tale of David's escape from King Saul. Many of the finds from the Hill of Ruins coincide with evidences in the Bible, such as evidence of an earthquake in the eighth century BC.

After being destroyed by the Aramese, Gat sank into oblivion. The town was re-populated, but never again reached its former position of power. The Crusaders under Richard Lionhear temporarily gave importance to the hill as they built the fortress "Blanche Guard" there. But only ruins of this fort are left today.

(Bar-Ilan University, 04.08.2015 - AKR)