Discovery of biblical city shares local connection
U of M prof worked at site where David slew Goliath
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/08/2015 (2783 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Goliath strode through this gate before David slew him; David himself threw a fit of madness, scratching the same gate, seeking sanctuary from King Saul’s wrath, according to the Bible’s Old Testament.
For decades, a team of archeologists from all over the world has poked, dug, and peeled back a cap of mud brick, bit by bit, at this site of the ancient city of Gath, halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon in central Israel.
The discovery last month of the fortified walls and entrance gate to the Iron Age city, at the time when Goliath lived and David ruled Israel, was big news.
It spun around the world from popular tabloid sites such as London’s Daily Mail. to the more staid but still popular online compendium ScienceDaily, in a matter of days.
A noted Winnipeg anthropologist who’s led a separate dig on the same ancient mound for years has returned with the story firsthand.
The discovery of the ancient entrance gate to the city of Gath this summer is the biggest find at an archeological site considered to be one of the most important in Israel, confirmed University of Manitoba anthropologist Haskel Greenfield.
“It vindicated what we’ve been saying about the importance of the site all along,” said Greenfield, a professor of anthropology at the U of M’s Near East and biblical archeology lab.
Greenfield’s own dig at the Tel Es-Safi/ Gath site is focused on an earlier period, about 2,000 years before the gate and the city that existed in David and Goliath’s time (1 Samuel 17). David’s fit of made-up madness can be found in 2 Samuel 1:20.
Greenfield watched the discovery come to life throughout July.
Word of the find eventually came through the excavation’s low-key blog site, kept by lead archeologist Prof. Aren Maeir. He’s the director of the Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath. He also co-ordinates digs there by teams from around the world, including Winnipeg. The Canadian work is supported by a federal partnership grant with Maeir through the federal Social Science and Humanity Research Council in Ottawa.
For Greenfield and a team including local university students, the discovery was beyond exciting.
“Aren Maeir and the people working on the Philistine material have been arguing all along that, one, this is Gath and that it was a major city for the region, a lot bigger than Jerusalem at the time. It was the major Philistine fortified centre at this time period,” Greenfield said.
The discovery revealed itself layer by layer, he recalled.
“Once they found a piece of the fortification wall, they followed it along and they realized oh, this is probably a tower. Then there’s a gap with a little valley. That used to be the pathway up to the site,” he said.
The same path Goliath probably walked down.
“And then they realized, ‘Oh my gosh we found the gateway…’ absolute jubilation. It vindicated what we’ve been saying about the importance of the site all along,” Greenfield said.
As teaching moments go, it doesn’t get much better.
“One of the things I do, most importantly, is bring students from here and show them the land and the archeology and the history. And how it all fits together. You can read the Bible and you can walk around and say, ‘Oh, OK, Gath is Goliath’s hometown. That means he walked out these gates and through this valley, around this bend to meet David. And King Saul was sitting on that hill.’
“You get that kind of imagery and it all comes to life,” Greenfield said.
Updated on Monday, August 17, 2015 9:01 AM CDT: Photos updated.