Tel Zayit

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Oldest Hebrew inscription, Tel Zayit
It means first letters of Phoenician-Hebrew alphabet: (right-to-left) waw, he, het, zayin, tet.

Tel Zayit (Hebrew: תל זית‎‎, Arabic: Tell Zeita, Kirbat Zeita al Kharab[1]‎‎) is an archaeological tell in the Shephelah, or lowlands, of Israel. It may have been the site of the biblical city of Libnah (Joshua 10:32, 2 Kings 19:8) or Ziklag (1 Samuel 27:6).


The site, roughly 0.8-acre (3,200 m2), shows evidence of human settlement throughout the Late Bronze Age, and Iron Age I and II. The city was destroyed by fire twice, in 1200 BCE and the ninth century BCE. Hazael of Aram may have been the military leader who ordered the destruction of the city in the ninth century. The Aramean's siege tactics are known from the Zakkur stele,[2] and the Hebrew Bible records that Hazael devastated cities in the Shephelah during the ninth century, including Philistine Gath. The similar siege and destruction of Tell es-Safi (Gath) in the ninth century, a nearby site usually identified as Gath, has been cited by archaeologists there as possible evidence of Hazael's campaign.[3]

From at least the 16th century until some time during the 20th century, the site was occupied by the Arab village Zayta.[4] During the period of the British mandate, the village moved 1.5 km to the north, until it was depopulated in 1948.[4]

Work at Tel Zayit began with a preliminary survey in 1998 by a Pittsburgh Theological Seminary team led by Ron Tappy.[5]

During the 2005 season, archaeologists discovered the Zayit Stone among the ruins of a fire dating to the tenth century BC. The stone includes an inscription identified by some scholars as an abecedary, among the oldest ever discovered.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Survey of Palestine, Map 12: Hebron, 1:100,000, 1941–1946
  2. ^ Which records that his son, called Ben-Hadad, employed spectacular siege warfare against his enemies
  3. ^ Maeir, A., and Ehrlich, C. "Excavating Philistine Gath--Have We Found Goliath's Hometown?" in Biblical Archaeology Review 27(6): 22-31. 2001; Maeir, A. 2004. "The Historical Background and Dating of Amos VI 2: An Archaeological Perspective from Tell es-Safi/Gath," Vetus Testamentum 54(3):319–34.
  4. ^ a b Walid Khalidi (1992). All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948. Washington D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies. p. 227. 
  5. ^ Ron E. Tappy, The 1998 Preliminary Survey of Khirbet Zeitah el-Kharab (Tel Zayit) in the Shephelah of Judah, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 319, pp. 7-36, 2000
  6. ^ Tappy, Ron E., P. Kyle McCarter, Marilyn J. Lundberg, Bruce Zuckerman (2006). "An Abecedary of the Mid-Tenth Century B.C.E. from the Judaean Shephelah". BASOR. 344 (November): 5–46.  External link in |journal= (help)

Further reading[edit]

  • Ron E. Tappy and P. Kyle McCarter, Literate Culture and Tenth-century Canaan: The Tel Zayit Abecedary in Context, Eisenbrauns, 2008, ISBN 1-57506-150-3

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°37′45″N 34°49′49″E / 31.6292411°N 34.8302665°E / 31.6292411; 34.8302665