New evidence uncovered at the ancient city of Gezer in Israel provides important insights into the chronology of events in the region around 1000 BC. Archaeologists excavating at Tel Gezer have obtained radiocarbon dates from organic materials found in seven different stratigraphic layers spanning the 13th to 9th centuries BC.
Gezer is well known from Egyptian, Assyrian and biblical texts as an important city that changed hands between powerful rulers through warfare.
The city contains rich remains from the Bronze and Iron Ages, giving archaeologists a glimpse into the daily lives of past inhabitants. Excavations have revealed a continuous sequence of archaeological layers, allowing a detailed timeline to be constructed.
The 35 new radiocarbon dates are a significant advancement. They cover a transitional period when the city experienced multiple destructive events, rebuilding phases and fortification.
Archaeologists can now test proposed correlations between archaeological evidence and ancient written accounts of this period more rigorously.
For example, the dates suggest linking one destruction layer to the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah in the early 13th century BC is plausible. However, they indicate another proposed connection to a campaign by King Hazael is unlikely.
Most notably, structures, gates and walls dated to the early 10th century BC fit well within the reign of King Solomon as described in biblical sources.
Previously, remains sometimes attributed to Kings David and Solomon were thought to date around 100 years later. But the radiocarbon dating implies their kingdoms did historically exist, resolving longstanding debates.
The independently derived absolute dates provide archaeologists a new tool to better understand Gezer and contextualize it within the wider region.
As one of the researchers notes, the development of a reliable radiocarbon chronology at Tel Gezer – with its unusually rich historical associations – demonstrates how essential radiocarbon dating is to reconstructing site histories, evaluating long-held arguments, and testing proposed links between archaeological evidence and written records.
Ariel David, David and Solomon’s Biblical Kingdom May Have Existed After All, New Study Suggests (Haaretz) | Webster LC, Wolff SR, Ortiz SM, Barbosa M, Coyle C, Arbino GP, et al. (2023) The chronology of Gezer from the end of the late bronze age to iron age II: A meeting point for radiocarbon, archaeology egyptology and the Bible. PLoS ONE 18(11): e0293119. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0293119
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