Israel uncovers King David-era fortress on Golan Heights
The Golan Antiquities Authority’s excavations uncovered a fortified complex between the 11th to 10th centuries BCE from the time of King David. This unprecedented fortified complex raises new research concerns regarding the Iron Age settlement of the Golan.
Archaeologists claim that the fort was built by the kingdom of Geshur, an ally of King David, to control the region.
Before constructing the new Hispin neighbourhood, excavations were performed and funded by the Ministry of Construction and Housing and the Golan Regional Council, with the participation of many residents of Hispin and Nov, and students from the pre-military academies at Natur, Kfar Hanasi, Elrom, Meitzar and Katzrin.
According to Barak Tzin and Enno Bron, excavation directors on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, “The complex we exposed was built at a strategic location on the small hilltop, above the El-Al canyon, overlooking the region, at a spot where it was possible to cross the river.
The c. 1.5-m.-wide fort walls, built of large basalt boulders, encompassed the hill. In the excavation, we were astonished to discover a rare and exciting find: a large basalt stone with a schematic engraving of two-horned figures with outspread arms. There may also be another object next to them.”
A figure carved on a cultic stone stele was found in the Bethsaida Expedition Project in 2019, directed by Dr Rami Arav of Nebraska University, at Bethsaida just north of Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).
The stele, which depicts a horned figure with outspread arms, was erected next to a raised platform adjacent to the city gate. This scene was identified by Arav as representing the Moon-God Cult.
The Hispin stone was located on a shelf next to the entrance, and not one but two figures were depicted on it. According to the archaeologists, “It is possible that a person who saw the impressive Bethsaida stele decided to create a local copy of the royal stele.”
The fortified city of Bethsaida is considered by scholars to be the capital of the Aramean kingdom of Geshur that ruled the central and southern Golan 3,000 years ago.
According to the Bible, the kingdom maintained diplomatic and family relations with the House of David, and one of David’s wives was Maacah, the daughter of Talmi, king of Geshur.
Cities of the kingdom of Geshur were found along the Kinneret shore, including Tel Ein Gev, Tel Hadar and Tel Sorag, but such sites are rare in the Golan.
Archaeologists will now start researching the possibility that the Geshur kingdom had a more extensive presence in the Golan than was previously thought.
Following this discovery, changes in the development plans will be carried out together with the Construction and Housing Ministry so that the unique fortified complex will not be damaged.
The complex will be developed as an open area along the El-Al river bank, where educational archaeological activities will be carried out, as part of cultural heritage and a link with the past.
This aligns with the authority’s policy that learning the past through working in the field strengthens the younger generation’s bonds with their roots.