Archaeologists believe they have discovered the entrance gate to the biblical city of Gath, Goliath’s hometown, located about halfway between Jerusalem and the coastal city of Ashkelon.
Aren Maeir, an archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University who led the dig at Tel Zafit, said the gate is one of the largest ever found in Israel and is a reflection of the status of Gath between the 10th and ninth centuries B.C.
Bar-Ilan University noted in a statement Tuesday that Gath, home of the Philistines, was the largest city in the Holy Land during the United Monarchy of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
Gath is mentioned several times in the Bible including in I Samuel as the place David ran to in order to escape King Saul.
Israel’s i24 News reported that the discovery could impact the historical understanding about how much land the Kingdom of Judah controlled in the area:
According to Maeir, the discovery of Gath as a huge, fortified city on the border of Judea during an extended period, without any signs of destruction, proves the Philistines controlled the Judean plain and it is likely the remnant of a failure of the Israelite kingdom to spread westward, and not a sign of its power.
“The Judean kingdom is supposed to be big, important and strong,” said Maeir. “But it turns out there is a very big city on its western border. For years, I claimed Gath was a big city, but they countered that it has no lower city, and if it has one it is not fortified. After finding a huge fortification, it’s clearly the most important city of the 10th and ninth centuries."
As described in II Kings, Hazael, king of Aram-Damascus eventually conquered Gath.
Bar-Ilan University noted that besides the “monumental gate” and “impressive fortification wall,” researchers discovered Philistine temples and an iron factory.
They also believe they found evidence of an earthquake in the 8th century B.C. possibly connected to the earthquake mentioned in the beginning of the Book of Amos.
The excavation at Tel Zafit has been underway for 20 years.