Area A (Fig. 4). A small area of five squares was excavated in the upper part of the ruin, in the middle of the site, during the 2011 season. Evidence of three settlement periods was found: Byzantine (fourth–sixth centuries CE), Roman (first century CE) and Iron Age IIA (tenth century BCE). It should be mentioned that no evidence whatsoever was found of the Late Persian–Early Hellenistic period, which is represented by very impressive remains in the other excavation areas. The Byzantine stratum included remains of a fortified farmstead or roadside khan, in which two construction phases were discerned. The construction in the first phase is meticulous and well-built; whereas in the second phase, it is rather mediocre and poor. The finds ascribed to the Roman period included a circular installation and a plastered underground installation (a miqwe?).
The Iron Age remains were severely damaged as a result of the construction activity in later periods. They included remains of massive walls, which are twice as thick as the walls of contemporaneous buildings that were discovered elsewhere at the site. It seems that the buildings were fairly large and might have been several stories high. The location of massive remains at the highest point in the center of the site indicates that these might be the settlement’s administrative buildings. A large quantity of potsherds from Iron Age IIA was found in this area, but no in-situ fragments of complete vessels were noted. Noteworthy among the special finds is a carefully fashioned head of a ceramic male figurine.
Area B. This area, located in the western part of the site, north of the western gate, was extensively excavated in the 2007–2009 seasons; small probes were excavated in the 2010 season to complete our investigation of those places, which were not fully examined in the previous seasons. The excavated remains that were ascribed to the Late Persian–Early Hellenistic period included a street, which in its first phase, led to a gate that was built on top of the gate from the Iron Age (Fig. 5). The gate was sealed in a later phase and a large circular installation was constructed in the Hellenistic road, which negated its use. A rectangular room dating to the Iron Age, which contained a large tabun, was excavated in its entirety next to the gate. A drainage channel hewn in the bedrock at floor level was exposed in one of the dwellings.
Area C. Most of the excavation (c. 1,000 sq m) was concentrated in this area, located in the southeast of the site, during the two seasons. Remains of a terrace wall and fill, consisting of soil and large amounts of gravel that contained a coin dating to the beginning of the Islamic period, were discovered in the upper layer. The area was apparently used for cultivation after the large building from the Byzantine period was abandoned at the top of the site. An opening was breached in this region in the Byzantine period, as was the case in the Late Persian and the Early Hellenistic periods, which led from the site to the ElaValley. The opening destroyed the fourth casemate of the Iron Age casemate wall.
A large building (700 sq m) was constructed in Stratum III, dating to the Late Persian–Early Hellenistic period, on top of the Iron Age gate and the adjacent gate plaza to its west. The builders of the structure carefully cleaned the earlier gate, demolished three of the gate’s pillars and divided it into small rooms. Ovens, dwellings and a plastered bathtub were found. Remains of smaller buildings in a poor state of preservation were located east of the large building; only sections of walls could be discerned and no plans of complete buildings could be attained. The entire Iron Age room alongside the eighth casemate east of the gate was completely excavated; a plaster floor, overlain with a large number of coins and arrowheads, was found. Evidently, this is a cellar of a Hellenistic building that penetrated down to the bedrock. The stratum was abandoned in an orderly manner and only several fragments of pottery vessels and stone objects were found on the floors of the rooms.
A second Iron Age gate, whose dimensions are similar to those of the gate in Area B, was completely exposed. A drainage channel was also found in this gate. An area that served as a large plaza (‘the gate street’) alongside three casemates was left open just to the north and west of the gate (Fig. 6). The gate plaza was delimited in the south by the gate and the city wall, in the east and west by residential buildings and in the north by a massive stone wall, which had an opening (width c. 2 m). The walls enclosing the plaza on all four sides indicate that the entrance to the city was planned in such a manner as to restrict the movement of people inside the settlement.
The casemate wall east of the gate was excavated. Nine casemates were completely exposed and a tenth one was partially uncovered. Only the eastern part of the buildings adjacent to the casemate wall was excavated in the 2010 season, providing us with a dwelling model whereby each house included a single casemate. While excavating the western part of these buildings during the 2011 season, it became clear that the buildings are larger and actually include two to three casemates per house (Fig. 7). The buildings are divided into several separate units and it seems that they were used as dwellings for extended families that comprised three to four nuclear families. One room is exceptional; it includes three massive stone columns and two troughs, and it probably served as a small stable. A cultic chamber is also located in this area (Figs. 8, 9); it included a stone bench, two mazzevot, a carved basalt altar, a stone basin and a ceramic libation vessel composed of two joined goblets, as well as a scarab and a conical seal.  
All the buildings were suddenly destroyed and hundreds of shattered pottery vessels, dozens of stone objects and dozens of metallic artifacts were found on their floors. The sediment from the destruction layer was sifted (2 mm sieve), thereby providing a fine sample of the small finds that included Egyptian scarabs, a conical seal and beads. Other special finds from this stratum included fragments of two alabaster vessels and two Cypriot juglets.
The casemate wall was excavated west of the gate for a distance of five additional casemates. The three casemates adjacent to the gate had no dwellings attached to them. Buildings were affixed to the fourth and fifth casemates. A destruction layer rich in pottery vessels, stone objects, and small finds was discovered in the rooms adjacent to the casemates, in the first house after the gate plaza. The special finds comprised a variety of cultic objects. These included two model temples, one carved in stone and the other made of clay with a plastic decoration depicting an entrance flanked by two columns and two lions.
Evidence of extensive quarrying activity, which provided the stone for the construction of the Iron Age city wall, is another aspect that was investigated in the 2011 season. Bedrock outcrops with remains of quarries, which can tell us about the quarrying methods, were carefully documented.
The Iron Age stratum was built on top of bedrock. It seems that during its construction the remains of two previous periods, known mostly from potsherds, were completely destroyed. The earlier period is the Late Chalcolithic, of which fragments of cornets, large kraters, a basalt chalice and a fragment of a hematite mace head were found. The second period, dating to the Middle Bronze Age, is characterized by cooking pots with straight sides that are decorated with affixed rope ornamentations and a row of small perforations below the rim.
Area D. This area, in the west of the site and south of the gate, is the continuation of Area B. Finds attributed to three main periods were discovered (Fig. 10). No significant building remains dating to the Byzantine and Islamic periods were discovered, only the use of a natural cave.
A large structure (c. 700 sq m) that consisted of three adjacent units was built in the Late Persian–Early Hellenistic period. A large courtyard with several rooms built around it was uncovered in both the northern units. Many ovens, two plaster bathtubs and large silos were found. A long corridor was built on the western side of each unit, next to the Iron Age casemate wall. Sometimes the ancient casemates were integrated in the later construction and sometimes, they were blocked and not reused. An Iron Age floor was found in some of the casemates, overlain with vessels beneath the Hellenistic level. The third unit, in the south, is an olive press, which contained more than 1,600 olive pits, as well as a pressing installation with four stone weights arranged in a row and four other weights, some in secondary use in the walls. The building in Area D is unusual in the finds it contained, including an especially large quantity of coins, fragments of Attic pottery vessels imported from Greece and a fragment of a slate vessel. It seems that this was the principal administrative building of the site, which was located near the gate. As in Area C, here too it was ascertained that the site was abandoned in an orderly manner, as neither a concentration of pottery vessels suitable for restoration nor whole in-situ stone vessels, were found on the floors.
All the northern part of Area D in the Iron Age, parallel to the first four casemates south of the gate, was an open gate plaza and no residential structures were discovered in it. The first Iron Age building in this area was constructed next to the fifth casemate. The gate plaza extended in front of four casemates (as opposed to the gate plaza in the south that extended in front of three casemates). It seems that the eastern side of the gate plaza was delimited by a wall whose remains were found below the casemate wall of the later building. South of the gate plaza were walls and rooms of two buildings adjacent to the casemate walls. The northern building was severely damaged when an olive press was built above it in the Late Persian–Early Hellenistic period. The southern building, which continued toward the built-up area, has several large rooms. A large room of architectural interest is located next to the casemate wall. Its entrance is emphasized by a large stone column and its floor consists of wadi pebbles bound with plaster. Ceramic jars leaning against the wall of the building and a krater with multiple handles were found in-situ on the floor, which was only preserved in the northern part of the room.
Area E. Two squares in the center of the eastern part of the site were excavated for the purpose of ascertaining the plan of the site and the construction model of the casemates and houses. Remains from the Late Persian–Early Hellenistic period were found in the upper stratum and below them were finds dating to the Iron Age (Fig. 11).
Table 1: The stratigraphical and chronological sequence at Khirbat Qeiyafa
Nature of Finds
Nature of Settlement
Two ruinous buildings, a path, a fence enclosing c. 160 dunams around the site
A. Early Islamic
Coins, pottery
Agricultural area
B. Byzantine
A large building at the top of the site
Khan or fortress
C. Late Roman
Agricultural area
D. Early Roman
Coins, pottery
Agricultural area
E. Hasmonean
Agricultural area
Late Persian–Early Hellenistic
Peripheral wall, gate, residential buildings, silos, coins, pottery
Administrative center?
Iron IIA
Casemate wall, two gates, residential buildings, destruction layer
Fortified city
Middle Bronze Age II
Small village?
Late Chalcolithic
Potsherds, flint tools and basalt objects, mace head
Small village?
Three main settlement strata were exposed at Khirbet Qeiyafa. The upper stratum dated to the fourth–sixth centuries CE and included a large building at the top of the site, possibly a fortress or a roadside khan. The middle stratum, dating to the Late Persian and the beginning of the Hellenistic periods (350–270 BCE), included two large buildings that were entirely exposed in Areas C and D and meager walls of small buildings were uncovered in Areas B and C. No Hellenistic construction activity was uncovered at the top of the site in Area A. The Iron Age walls and rooms were extensively used in this stratum. When the settlement was established in this period the newcomers reused the western gate of the Iron Age but the opening was made narrower (c. 2 m). That entrance was blocked in a later phase; to replace it, an opening was breached in the eastern side of the site, in the vicinity of the fourth casemate east of the gate in Area C. The change in the approach route to the site indicates a change in orientation. The settlement in this period was concentrated in just a narrow strip. This stratum is characterized by a rich assemblage of coins, some of which are extremely rare. It seems that this is an administrative center that controlled the crossroads in the Ela Valley and was abandoned in an orderly fashion during the reign of Ptolemais II, when the residents took their property and systematically sealed the openings to rooms and buildings.
The lower stratum, from Iron Age IIA, dates to the late eleventh–early tenth centuries BCE. The remains of this settlement, uncovered to date, included two gates, two gate plazas, twenty-eight casemates (twenty complete), ten residential buildings and remains of administrative buildings at the top of the site. Large quantities of artifacts were discovered on the floors of the houses in each area, including hundreds of pottery vessels that can be restored, hundreds of stone objects, dozens of metallic objects and small finds. It is obvious that this stratum was suddenly destroyed. Much evidence was found of ritual activity, including mazzevot, a cultic chamber, models of temples (two of ceramic and one of stone) and a figurine.
The Iron Age city had impressive architectural and material finds:
1. A town plan characteristic of the Kingdom of Judah that is also known from other sites, e.g., Bet Shemesh, Tell en-Nasbeh, Tell Beit Mirsim and Be’er Sheva‘. A casemate wall was built at all of these sites and the city’s houses next to it incorporated the casemates as one of the dwelling’s rooms. This model is not known from any Canaanite, Philistine or Kingdom of Israel site.
2. Massive fortification of the site, including the use of stones that weigh up to eight tons apiece.
3. Two gates. To date, no Iron Age cities with two gates were found in either Israel or Judah.
4. An open space for a gate plaza was left near each gate. In Area C an area was left open parallel to three casemates and in Area D, the area was parallel to four casemates.
5. The city’s houses were contiguous and built very close together.
6. Some 500 jar handles bearing a single finger print, or sometimes two or three, were found. Marking jar handles is characteristic of the Kingdom of Judah and it seems this practice has already begun in the early Iron Age IIA.
7. A profusion of bronze and iron objects were found. The iron objects included three swords, about twenty daggers, arrowheads and two spearheads. The bronze items included an axe, arrowheads, rings and a small bowl.
8. Trade and imported objects. Ashdod ware, which was imported from the coastal plain, was found at the site. Basalt vessels were brought from a distance of more than 100 km and clay juglets from Cyprus and two alabaster vessels from Egypt were discovered.
The excavations at Khirbat Qeiyafa clearly reveal an urban society that existed in Judah already in the late eleventh century BCE. It can no longer be argued that the Kingdom of Judah developed only in the late eighth century BCE or at some other later date.