Whether or not King David, one of the most prominent figures in the Bible, ever existed was in doubt until 1993. Now, more proof of the historicity of David has been uncovered in a valley east of the Hebron hills.
With the help of burrowing mole rats, archaeologists discovered a large building attributed to the kingdom of King David. The building is in the biblical city of Eglon, a Canaanite city, which fought against Israel as part of the five Amorite kings coalition and was later listed as part of the tribe of Judah.
The dig at Tel ‘Eton is led by Professor Avraham Faust of Bar-Ilan University.
“We, of course, did not find any artifacts that said ‘King David’ or ‘King Solomon’ but we discovered at the site signs of a social transformation the region underwent, including the construction of a large edifice in a plan known to archaeologists as ‘the four-room house,’ which is common in Israel but is rare to non-existent elsewhere… Since the source of the change seems to be in the highlands, and since it took place at the time when David was supposed to have existed, the link is plausible.”
The discovery has become part of an ongoing dispute among archaeologists about whether King David actually existed as a real historical figure or whether he was just a mythological figure existing only in the pages of the Bible. The finds from Tel ‘Eton, recently published by Faust and Yair Sapir in the journal Radiocarbon, led the authors to claim that the city was once part of David’s kingdom. The structure was dated to the 10th century—the time in which King David was supposed to have ruled according to the Bible—on the basis of radiocarbon dates of samples from the floor make-up and from the foundation deposit. After describing the building and the reasons that led them to date it to the 10th century BCE, Faust and Sapir wrote:
“This has bearings on the date in which social complexity evolved in Judah, on the debate regarding the historicity of the kingdom of David and Solomon.”
Faust believes the discovery sways the debate toward the existence of a major united monarchy in the Davidic and Solomonic eras.
Skeptics have doubted the existence of a united kingdom since no discoveries of fortifications, public works or signs of statehood have been found in the region of Judah from the Davidic era. Now, there is one.
In support of a powerful central kingdom is the fact that the governor’s house atop Tel ‘Eton couldn’t have been built by a less sophisticated culture. It contains ashlar stones, the earliest such use found yet, and was built on deep foundations, using quality building materials. Such investment in construction would be hallmarks of a complex society and a strong political entity.
The researchers were aided by mole rats, burrowing rodents that live in the region. Archaeologists have little idea of what lies underground when they begin digging, and many hours of meticulous work may be spent in a fruitless effort. By sifting through the earth brought to the surface by the burrowing rodents, archaeologists can glean clues about what lies below.