In the 2019 excavation season, five areas were excavated (B, D, K, M, Y; Fig. 1) within Tel Zafit’s lower city, which extends northward from the summit up to the streambed of Nahal Ha-Ela.
Area B. A terrace that may be part of the city’s Iron Age fortifications was excavated in the eastern part of the lower city. Since no significant remains were found, it is impossible to date the terrace or determine if it can indeed be associated with the city’s fortifications.
Area D East (Fig. 2). Excavations continued near one of the city gates (a water gate?), inside its associated fortifications and in adjacent buildings. One construction phase of the Iron Age I (Fig. 2, in blue [eleventh century BC]) and two construction phases of the Iron Age IIA (Fig. 2, in red [tenth century BC] and orange [ninth century BC]) were recorded. The city gate was sealed, and various nearby rooms were filled in so as to reinforce the fortifications in this area—perhaps in preparation for the siege on the eve of the city’s destruction at the hands of King Haza’el of Aram (2 Kings 12:18), which took place around 830 BCE. The fills inside the rooms yielded rich ceramic assemblages from the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age IA. The provenance of the fills is unclear, as no remains from these periods have been found to date in the lower city.
Area K. In previous seasons, Iron Age IIA buildings with evidence of an olive oil industry were uncovered in this area. These buildings were probably destroyed by Haza’el. The current season uncovered remains of a massive Iron Age IB defensive wall beneath the Iron Age IIA buildings. The defensive wall is aligned differently from the Iron Age IIA buildings in the lower city, but it is aligned similarly to the Iron Age I buildings in the adjacent area (Area Y, below).
Area M (Fig. 3). Continuing the 2018 season, the present excavation unearthed architectural remains of Iron Age IIA dwellings and evidence of an olive-oil industry during this period. The buildings, which contained oil-production installations and numerous finds, were probably destroyed by Haza’el.
Area Y (Fig. 4). Following on from the 2018 season, the present excavation focused on a large Iron Age I structure built with a unique combination of large stones and fired mud-bricks. The building yielded only meager finds, and its function could not be determinate. It is also unclear whether it constitutes a single structural unit or a complex of buildings, although it definitely was a public structure. Construction in this area is aligned differently from the Iron Age IIA buildings of the lower city but in agreement with the Iron Age I defensive wall in Area K. The building may have been part of the lower city’s eastern fortifications or city gate. The remains emphasize the extensive construction operations that characterized the lower city during Iron Age I and attest to the might of Philistine Gath from the very outset of the Iron Age.
In season 2019, excavations continued to uncover the impressive Iron Age remains in the lower city of Philistine Gath. Previous seasons had unearthed many remains of the Iron Age IIA city. However, the current season uncovered the remains of a sizable settlement with impressive fortifications that existed as early as Iron Age I in the lower city. Apparently, the lower city’s urban layout underwent alterations in the transition between Iron Age I and Iron Age IIA.