Excavations at Lachish -- By: David Ussishkin

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 08:2 (Spring 1979)
Article: Excavations at Lachish
Author: David Ussishkin

Excavations at Lachish

David Ussishkin

[David Ussishkin is head of the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel, and the editor of TEL AVIV, the journal of the Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University. He is also a member of the editorial board of QADMONIOT, the Executive Committee of the Israel Exploration Society and the Israel Archaeological Council.]

Tel Lachish: general view from the northwest.

Lachish was one of the most important cities of the Biblical era in the Holy Land. Situated southwest of Jerusalem, it is represented today by a huge, impressive mound, named Tel Lachish or Tell ed-Duweir. Lachish was already a large city during the third millennium B.C. During the Middle Bronze Age, in the first half of the second millennium B.C. Lachish was heavily fortified by a glacis and a fosse, which gave the mound its present conspicuous shape. During the Late Bronze Age it was a large Canaanite city-state, and a few letters from Lachish were found in the fourteenth century royal Egyptian archives at El-Amarna. Lachish played a major role in the story of the Israelite conquest of Canaan as related in Joshua 10. Joshua and the Israelites fought against Japhia, king of Lachish, destroyed the city and killed its inhabitants. Following the final destruction of the Canaanite city, Lachish was nearly abandoned for about two hundred years, till the tenth century B.C.

During the first half of the first millennium B.C., at the period of the Kingdom of Judah, Lachish was again a fortified city, and in fact it was the most important Judean city after Jerusalem. It played a

special role in 701 B.C., when Sennacherib, king of Assyria, invaded Judah, and conquered all the fortified cities except Jerusalem. His royal camp — as we learn from the Old Testament — was situated near Lachish, which he stormed and conquered. A unique set of stone-reliefs portraying in detail the conquest of Lachish was placed by Sennacherib in a special centrally situated room in his royal palace at Nineveh. These reliefs are now exhibited in the British Museum in London. The detailed reliefs and their position in the royal palace show that the conquest of Lachish was of singular importance. This was, perhaps, the most important military achievement of Sennacherib — undoubtedly the most powerful ruler of this part of the world — during the earlier part of his reign. In 588/6 B.C., Lachish was stormed and burnt again, this time by Nebuchadnezzar, king...

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