Tel Arad

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Tel Arad
תל ערד
Tel arad fortress.JPG
Aerial View of upper Tel Arad
Tel Arad is located in Israel
Tel Arad
Shown within Israel
Location Israel
Coordinates31°16′51″N 35°07′30″E / 31.280833°N 35.125°E / 31.280833; 35.125
Site notes
ArchaeologistsYohanan Aharoni, Ruth Amiran
Public accessNational Park

Tel Arad (Hebrew: תל ערד) is an archaeological tel, or mound, located west of the Dead Sea, about 10 kilometres (6 miles) west of the modern Israeli city of Arad in an area surrounded by mountain ridges which is known as the Arad Plain. The site is divided into a lower city and an upper hill which holds the only ever discovered "House of Yahweh" in the land of Israel.[1] Tel Arad was excavated during 18 seasons by Ruth Amiran and Yohanan Aharoni.

History and archaeology[edit]

The western gate of the lower Canaanite city excavations at lower Tel Arad

Chalcolithic settlement[edit]

The lower area was first settled during the Chalcolithic period, around 4000 BCE.

The Bronze Age Canaanite settlement[edit]

Excavations at the site have unearthed an extensive Bronze Age Canaanite settlement which was in place until approximately 2650 BCE. The site was then apparently deserted for over 1500 years.

The Iron Age Israelite settlement[edit]

The site was only resettled by Israelites from the 11th century BCE onwards[citation needed], initially as an unwalled area defined as an official or sacred domain was established on the upper hill, and then later as a garrison-town or citadel.

The citadel and sanctuary were constructed at the time associated in the biblical narrative with King David and Solomon. Artifacts found within the sanctuary of the citadel mostly reflect offerings of oil, wine, wheat, etc. brought there by numerous people throughout the reign of the kings of Judah until the kingdom's fall to the Babylonians. However, during the Persian, Maccabean, Roman, and Early Muslim periods, locals continued to bring these items to the sacred precinct of the upper hill. Markers of these ancient Israelite rituals remain to this day, with broken pottery littering the entire site.

Under the Judaean kings, the citadel was periodically refortified, remodelled and rebuilt, until being ultimately destroyed between 597-577 BCE, whilst Jerusalem was under siege by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II.

Arad ostraca[edit]

Among the most significant artifacts unearthed at Tel Arad are 91 ostraca, known as the Arad ostraca, written in Palaeo-Hebrew script, referring to the citadel as the House of Yahweh. They are mostly orders to the quartermaster, commands and lists of names. The Eliyashiv Ostraca, all found in the same room, are addressed to a person named Eliyashiv, ordering him to deliver a specific quantity of wine, flour, etc.[2]

Hellenistic and Roman periods[edit]

It is believed that several citadels were built one upon the other and existed in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Herod even reconstructed the lower city for the purpose of making bread.[dubious ] The site lasted until the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and completely expelled the Jews in 135 AD.

Muslim conquest to Abbasid period[edit]

Tel Arad lay in ruins for 500 years until the Early Islamic period, when the former Roman citadel was rebuilt and remodeled by some prosperous clan in the area and functioned for 200 years until around 861 AD, when there was a breakdown of central authority and a period of widespread rebellion and unrest. The citadel was destroyed and no more structures were built on the site.

Sanctuary at Arad[edit]

Excavations on the upper Arad, pictured here stratum X gate of Arad Fortress
Clay model house, 3,000-2,650 BCE

The temple at Arad was uncovered by archaeologist Yohanan Aharoni in 1962 who spent the rest of his life considering its mysteries, dying there in the mid-1970s.

In the holy of holies of this temple two incense altars and a standing stone were found, probably having been dedicated to Yahweh. Unidentified dark material preserved on their upper surfaces was submitted for organic residue analysis and traces of cannabinoids, boswellic acid and norursatriene (which derives from frankincense) were detected.[3] An inscription was found on the site by Aharoni mentioning a "House of Yahweh", which William G. Dever suggests may have referred to the temple at Arad or the temple at Jerusalem.[4][5][6]

The lower settlement and the upper Israelite citadel are now part of the Tel Arad National Park which have begun projects to restore the walls of the upper and lower sites.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Aharoni, Yohanan (1981). Arad Inscriptions. University of Virginia: Israel Exploration Society. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  2. ^ Extremely rare pottery from First Temple-era Bears Even Rarer Inscription, Israeli Archaeologists Discover, Haaretz
  3. ^ Arie, Eran; Rosen, Baruch; Namdar, Dvory (28 May 2020). "Cannabis and Frankincense at the Judahite Shrine of Arad". Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Aharoni, Yohanan (1981). Arad Inscriptions. University of Virginia: Israel Exploration Society. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
  5. ^ Dever, William G. What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us About the Reality of Ancient Israel Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (June 2002) ISBN 978-0-8028-2126-3 p.212
  6. ^ King, Philip J.; Lawrence E. Stager Life in Biblical Israel Westminster/John Knox Press, U.S.; 1 edition (19 April 2002) ISBN 978-0-664-22148-5 p.314

External links[edit]