Monday, January 23, 2012

Tel Arad

Tel Arad, northwest of the modern city of Arad in the northern Negev, consists of a lower and an upper city. The lower city was inhabited only in the Early Bronze Age (3150-2200 BCE). At approximately 100 dunams (25 acres), Arad was one of the largest cities of its day in this country, and surrounded by a strong 1,200-meter wall. The city's streets, plazas, and buildings were meticulously planned, including a reservoir in the lowest part of the city to which surface runoff was channeled.

Tel Arad consists of the ruins of a Canaanite city from the Early Bronze Age, and fortresses built by the kings of Judea during the Israelite period.  Apart from the fortress, all the other remains seen at the site are from the Canaanite period.

When the people of Israel left slavery in Egypt they intended to enter the land from the south.  However, they encountered the King of Arad, who fought against them, blocking their way.

Later, after the Israelites conquered the country, one of their conquests was Arad.  In the bible is an account of the Kenite tribe, who settled in Arad.

Judges 1, 16
And the descendants of the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up with the people of Judah from the city of palms into the wilderness of Judah, which lies in the Negev, near Arad.

In an inscription uncovered in Karnak in Egypt, Arad appears in a list of cities subjugated by Pharaoh Shishak, king of Egypt, in 925 BCE.

Archeological excavations in Arad were started in 1962 under Ruth Amiran and Yohanan Aharoni.  The continued intermittently though to the 1980s under Amiran, while Aharoni excavated the Israelite fortresses from 1963-1967. 

At the end of the 4th millennium BCE the site was a small village, which by the beginning of the next millennium grew into a planned and fortified city of 100 dunams.  It was divided into quarters for the palace, shrines, residences and marketplace.  Water supply was provided by collecting surface water, which flowed down the streets and drained into a large reservoir at the centre of the city.  A thick-walled structure, which may have been used to guard the reservoir, is situated next to it.

Arad became a centre for trade in copper products due to its location at the edge of the desert on the fringe of settled land.  The Canaanite city remained in existence for approx 350 years (until around 2650 BCE) and was later abandoned for some 1,500 years.

The fortress mound

A small settlement on the highest part of the tel was established by the Israelites in the 11th century BCE.  Fortresses were built there on 5 different levels.  The fortress which can be seen today is surrounded by a wall 180 ft long and 164 ft wide.  It contains a unique Judean shrine, a water system, residential structures and storehouses.  200 ostraca from the Judean and Persian periods were found inside the fortress.  Over 100 of the ostraca were in Hebrew and approx 90 in Aramaic.

After the destruction of the first temple in 586 BCE, the fortress continued to service as a military transit station during Persian rule.  Most of the Aramaic ostraca are from the Persian period.  During Hellenistic times the walls were repaired and a fortified tower constructed in its centre.  Under Roman rule it was used as a stronghold until the 2nd century BCE.  After its capture by the Arabs in the 7th century CE, it served as a khan until its destruction in the 8th century.  Tel Arad has been uninhabited ever since.

A shrine with a square alter, constructed from bricks and rough stone, was built in the fortress’ northwestern section.  It includes an inner courtyard, sanctuary and Holy of Holies.  A monument with found inside the Holy of Holies, whose entrance is flanked by 2 incense alters..  The original of this monument is now in the Israel Museum and a replica stands in its place.

The Arad House

In the southern quarter of the city, is a reconstruction of a typical example of what is known as an “Arad house”.  It consists of one room, with the bottom (50-70 cm) of its walls from rough stone, and the top part of the walls from clay bricks.  The entrance is in one of the longitudinal walls, and there are stone benches around the sides.  On a pedestal in the centre of the rooms is a pillar supporting the ceiling, made of wooden beams and branches.

The Well

The well was constructed towards the end of the Judean kingdom, at the centre of the Canaanite water reservoir, and is 52.5 feet deep.  The water from the well was transported to the fortress using pack animals.  In the 1st century BCE it was renovated and several plastered storage pools, some equipped with troughs, were built nearby.

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