Lachish: Tell ed-Duweir

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Tell ed-Duweir is commonly (following Albright 1929) identified as the city of Lachish. Lachish is one of the larger tels from Iron Age Israel. Lachish was an important city since it protected the southern route into the Judean Hills leading to Jerusalem. Traces of a large palace complex as well as the gateway attest its significance.

40 km SW of Jerusalem, in the Shephelah, the 31-acre site is surrounded on three sides by the Nahal Lachish (Wadi Ghafr). The Tell is typically steep-sided and its shape has become more regular over the centuries.

Letters from the rulers of the Late Bronze Age Canaanite city to the Egyptian overlords were found among the Amarna letters. A small hall and some houses have been excavated from this period (level VI), but no wall - suggesting that at this time the city was only lightly defended. This late bronze city shows close connection with Egypt, evidence (including cartouches and votive bowls) suggests direct Egyptian control and exploitation of this area. This city was destroyed, by fire, and not reoccupied till much later. No traces of Philistine pottery have been uncovered from this layer of the tel, which suggests that its destruction preceded their occupation of this area (Tell ed-Duweir is close to the sites identified as Gath and Ekron). Since cartouches of Rameses III were found in this layer, so it is likely that the destruction took place around 1130BCE (when Egypt was losing control of Southern Palestine).

The oldest signs of Israelite occupation seem to date to the period of the United Monarchy (level V), this modest city was destroyed, perhaps by Pharaoh Shishak (c.930BCE).

The level IV city (dated to the Judean monarchy) was the largest and best fortified city in Judah outside Jerusalem. It appears that Lachish may have begun as a garrison town which then attracted civilians to become a major city: the huge palace citadel seems to have been constructed in two phases, domestic buildings are only found among the later construction etc.

All major buildings from this level were rebuilt in level III. There is no trace of warfare or fire, which might suggest destruction by an earthquake (M. Kochavi according to ABD suggested the quake referred to in the book of Amos). In this level the palace fort was still further enlarged, making its podium the biggest structure known from ancient Israel (36 x 76m).

This city was destroyed following the Assyrian siege and assault. This is pictured in reliefs from Sennakerib's palace (now displayed in the British Museum).

Level II is also from the Israelite period it represents the reconstruction of the city some time later (possibly during Josiah's reign) this city was also fortified, but was not on the grand scale of its predecessor. It is from the gate house of this layer that the "Lachish Letters" recording the beginning of the Babylonian campaign which led to the destruction of Lachish and then of Jerusalem.