Area A extended across the center of the tell, at the highest point within the site, which provides a commanding view of all parts of the city, particularly the two gates, and looks out over the Shephelah, the coastal plain and the Judean Hills. Part of a large structure, dating from the Iron Age (tenth century BCE; length c. 30 m; Figs. 3, 4), was exposed. Its southern wall, two of the corners (Fig. 5) and sections of several interior walls were preserved. The walls of the building were wider than those of the regular dwellings of this period that were discovered along the city’s perimeter. It thus seems that it stood several stories tall. This large central structure, which was dubbed ‘the governor’s palace’, was probably the main administrative building of the city and the Shephelah at this time. In the Byzantine period, a large fortified farmhouse was erected inside the precincts of palace. Parts of the farmhouse were uncovered in previous seasons; its construction damaged the remains of the Iron Age building (Fig. 6). A large, square winepress, paved with a mosaic made of coarse, white tesserae (Fig. 7), was exposed nearby, southeast of the building. Agricultural terrace walls were discovered south of the building.
Area F. In this area, in the northern part of the site, adjacent to the casemate walls (Figs. 8–10), were remains of a rectangular storehouse consisting of two wings and two rows of stone columns; the western wing was only partially uncovered. The structure was erected in the tenth century BCE. In the Late Persian and Early Hellenistic periods, the building underwent structural changes that included dividing it into two spaces.
Area W. A massive agricultural watchtower (Figs. 11–13) was discovered c. 100 m west of the city wall. Pottery sherds, including jar handles bearing stamped rosette impressions, and a fragment of a Judean pillar figurine dated it to the seventh century BCE. The tower, comprising a single large square room (c. 7 × 7 m), was built of large stones that were apparently taken from the city wall. An opening was fixed in the eastern wall; its threshold and the lintel stones were preserved. Inside the tower were installations, including a small unit used to extract olive oil. Outside the tower was a large concentration of pottery sherds, probably an accumulation of refuse from when the tower was in use. Large building stones, which most likely collapsed from the upper courses of the walls were scattered around the tower. It seems that in a later period some of the stones were used to delimit a road that passes near the tower.
During the 2013 season the excavation was completed in the governor’s palace at the top of the site and in the storeroom structure, which were two public buildings inside the fortified city of the tenth century BCE. Outside the site an agricultural tower was uncovered that dates to c. 400 years later. The rosette impressions on jar handles found in the tower indicate that it was associated with the Kingdom of Judah.
From a variety of aspects, the seven excavation seasons at Khirbat Qeiyafa caused a real revolution in the study of the tenth century BCE.
1 — The settlement model in Judah. Until now, most scholars believed that Judah was unpopulated during the tenth and ninth centuries BCE. The central argument for this contention was the absence of tenth century BCE sites, and even in the survey that was previously conducted at Khirbat Qeiyafa no tenth century BCE settlement was identified. If no settlement from this period was identified at a site where the remains of a fortified city are exposed so close to the surface, then it is clear that contemporary settlements were not identified at other sites where these remains are buried deep beneath several later strata. The excavation results at Khirbat Qeifaya suggest that we need to reexamine all of the survey conclusions regarding the tenth century BCE in Judah.
2 — Chronology. For the past seventeen years there has been an ongoing debate about the dating of the transition from the Iron I to the beginning of the Iron IIA, that is, the transition from a rural society to an urban society. The dating of the construction of the fortified city at Khirbat Qeiyafa to c. 1000 BCE unequivocally clarifies the fact that urbanization began at a very early time, coinciding with the reign of King David.
3 — Urban construction. The Iron Age city at Khirbat Qeiyafa includes a casemate wall, two gates, two gate-plazas, dwellings adjacent to the city wall, a storeroom structure and a governor’s palace that was situated in the center of the city. The integration of dwellings in the casemate walls is known from four other sites: Tell en-Nasbeh, Bet Shemesh, Tell Beit Mirsim and Be’er Sheva‘. These five sites are in the territory of the Kingdom of Judah and point to a state planned concept that existed with regards to the building of cities.
4 — Stamped jar handles. Hundreds of store jars were discovered at the site. According to petrographic analyses they were all made of the same type of indigenous clay. The jars were stamped with a fingerprint on one or both of the handles. The practice of stamping store jar handles is known to have occurred in Judah for hundreds of years from the Iron Age until the Hellenistic period, and this includes LMLH stamped impressions and seal impressions of rosettes, lions and the place names MZH, YHD and YRSLM. With the discovery of the jars at the site that were stamped with fingerprints it is now clear that this custom was already well-established in the early tenth century BCE.
5 — The ceramic assemblage. The Iron Age city was destroyed suddenly. The destruction layer includes hundreds of whole pottery vessels that provide a complete picture about the variety and types of vessels that are characteristic of the tenth century BCE. Thanks to this excavation it is now possible to identify the early and late types of Ashdod Ware.
6 — Foreign relations. Ten Egyptian scarabs and several alabaster vessels were discovered in the excavation, indicating ties with Egypt. In addition, two Cypriot White-Painted juglets were found at the site. The radiometric dating of the Iron Age city at Khirbat Qeiyafa has ramifications for dating throughout the Levant.
7 — Metal objects. Scores of metal objects were discovered in the Iron Age stratum, most of which were made of iron. They contribute greatly toward our understanding of the development of metallurgy in this period.
8 — Writing. The ostracon that was discovered at Khirbat Qeiyafa (Misgav and Garfinkel 2009) added another tier to our understanding of the development of the ancient alphabet in the world. The Canaanite script, also known as Proto-Canaanite, was still being used during the tenth century BCE. The appearance of writing at Khirbat Qeiyafa shows that the residents of Judah were able to document historical events and pass on historical knowledge from generation to generation. Thus, the primary argument for the minimalist approaches in the study of the Bible and the First Temple period, which suggests that absolutely no historical memories were preserved in the biblical text, is negated. The find from Khirbat Qeiyafa, as well as recent discoveries from Bet Shemesh and Jerusalem, show that literacy in the tenth century BCE was far more widespread than previously thought.
9 — Ritual. The three cultic rooms that were discovered contained installations and special objects, such as standing stones, basins, benches, libation vessels and models of temples. To date, these artifacts are the earliest known evidence of ritual practice in Judah.
10 — The Ella Valley, where Judah and Philistia battled. The location of Khirbat Qeiyafa near the Ella Valley cannot be ignored. The excavations revealed a massively fortified Iron Age city that was destroyed shortly after its construction. Dozens of weapons were discovered in the city. Both its construction and destruction reflect how dangerous the region was. It is not surprising that according to tradition, the battle of David and Goliath and numerous other battles took place very near Khirbat Qeiyafa. It is obvious that these stories preserved a historical memory regarding the border wars between the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Gat, which was located on Tel Zafit, just c. 12 km west of the site.