The History of the 4,000-Year-Old Steps in Hebron

4,000-year-old steps discovered in 1999 attest to Hebron's rich past.

26.10.18, 15:59
In 1999, the Tel Hebron excavations began which uncovered the Bronze Age steps and other priceless historic artifacts. These discoveries led to the subsequent 2014 dig which today has been open to the pubic as the Tel Hevron Archaeological Garden under the auspices of the Israeli Parks and Nature Authority. The 2018 grand opening which was attended by government ministers and top elected public officials had its beginnings back in 1999.

Dr. Emmanual Eisenberg of the Israel Antiquities Authority led the dig in Tel Hevron, known is Arabic as Tel Rumeida. The mostly empty tract of land in the old city of Hebron for years had been strewn with garbage. A small noisy locally owned factory and randomly built homes surrounded the field where evidence of Abraham and Sarah's life in Hebron was discovered. 

In what is today's Admot Yishai neighborhood, near the Tomb of Jesse and Ruth is a flight of stairs, over 4,000 years old, leading from the valley below into the ancient city of Hebron.  Also discovered nearby was a 4,500 year old wall from the Early Bronze Era. On the Biblical timeline this corresponds to the story of Noah and the ark. 

Eisenberg can also chalk up another amazing discovery: that of a "four-room-house" or Israelite house dating, 2,700 years old, from the time of King Hezekiah. In the vicinity of this home were found five seals, call the King seals, or LMLK seals bearing the impression of a bird, or a beetle, with the word "LeMelech Hebron" meaning "belonging to the King, Hebron" in paleo-Hebrew.
These seals were embedded on the bottom of handles on clay jars containing food, to be distributed to soldiers in the then Judean army, who were fighting a war against Sennacherib, who also invaded Hebron and burned it to the ground.
Stone pillars discovered at the Israelite house are stained with patches of black, which Prof. Eisenberg determined were from the remains of the fire which ravaged Hebron.  Some hypothesize that the Arabic name Tel Rumeida comes from the word for fire.
The existence of the King's seals were not news to archaeologists. Several thousand were discovered in a variety of places throughout the greater Hebron Hills region decades ago. But the 1999 excavations uncovered "To the King Hebron," actually in Hebron.

One of the time periods unaccounted for is that of King David's reign. For seven years, Hebron was the capital of the Jewish kingdom. before Jerusalem. Prof. Eisenberg stated that most probably David's original "City of David" was located on the highest point of Tel Hebron, an area yet to be examined. This leads some to ponder whether the hilltop where the old stone structure know as the Tomb of Jesse and Ruth contains ruins of what once belonged to King David.

Previous excavations of the site include the Philip Hammond dig for Princeton Theological Seminary from 1964 - 1966 and the dig by Prof. Avi Ofer of Tel Aviv University from 1984 - 1986.
Above the ancient Israelite house is a modern Israeli residential apartment building, with the excavations open to the public at ground level. 

Regarding the 4,000-year-old steps -- is this the entrance to "the gate of the city" as described in Genesis 23:10? Is this where Abraham purchased the cave of Machpela and surrounding fields? The times periods match up, but archaeologists would like to one day excavate further. One thing is for sure -- for the local residents, the sense of history and the feeling that the Jewish people have returned to their ancestral homeland gives their place of residence extra meaning. 
Hebron's Earliest Defenses Found - Biblical Archeology
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