From Israel 4,000 Year-Old City Gate Found Intact At Tel Dan -- By: Abraham Rabinovich

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 10:2 (Spring 1981)
Article: From Israel 4,000 Year-Old City Gate Found Intact At Tel Dan
Author: Abraham Rabinovich


From Israel
4,000 Year-Old City Gate Found Intact At Tel Dan

Abraham Rabinovich

The oldest intact city gate ever uncovered in this country, and perhaps anywhere else — it may have existed when Abraham appeared before the city walls — was uncovered this summer at Tel Dan, in northern Israel.

The beautifully preserved structure, built of sunbaked mud brick, was constructed in the 19th-18th centuries B.C., according to Professor Abraham Biran, who conducted the excavation. It was preserved for close to 4, 000 years because the residents of the city decided for unknown reasons to seal it, cover it with earth and incorporate it into the city wall.

The intact arch precedes by almost 2, 000 years the earliest arches previously known in this country, stone arches from the Herodian period, said Biran. He was unaware of any intact gate so old uncovered anywhere in the world.

The monumental gate is preserved to a height of seven meters. Above the arch, which is formed by three courses of bricks, 17 horizontal courses of brick have been preserved. Biran believes the gate originally was several courses higher.

The recessed archway is flanked by two towers, only one of which was penetrated by Biran’s team during this season’s dig.

Two South African mining experts who volunteered their services, were used by Biran to open a way through the dirt fill

Isometric reconstruction of the Tel Dan gate.

blocking the entrance to the gate and to shore up the passage. The pair had earlier worked at the City of David dig in Jerusalem, where they opened a tunnel leading to the water system above Warren’s Shaft.

Abraham’s association with the site is recorded in the Genesis description of his encounter with the four kings who had taken prisoner his nephew Lot: “(Abraham) led forth his trained men, and pursued as far as Dan, and he divided himself against them by night, he and his servants, and smote them.”

The reference to Dan is a clear anachronism — the Hebrew scribe who recorded the story used the name current in his day rather than the name it bore then as a Canaanite city, Laish. Abraham is generally considered to have lived in the 18th century B.C., although some believe he lived as early as the 20th century B.C.

The tribe Dan conquered the city and changed its name in about the 12th century B.C.

Even if Abraham lived when the gate already existed and even if he found time before or after his night-time maneuver to see the wall...

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