MEDIA-GVSU professor, students discover gateway to ancient home of Goliath

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A Grand Valley professor, along with 12 students and an international team of archaeologists, recently unearthed a massive gate at the archaeological site of Tell es-Safi in Israel, which may have marked the entrance to the ancient biblical city of Gath. The city is thought to be the home of Goliath, the giant warrior whom the young Israelite King David bested with a sling.

A Grand Valley professor, along with 12 students and an international team of archaeologists, recently unearthed a massive gate at the archaeological site of Tell es-Safi in Israel, which may have marked the entrance to the ancient biblical city of Gath. The city is thought to be the home of Goliath, the giant warrior whom the young Israelite King David bested with a sling.

Elizabeth Arnold, associate professor of anthropology at Grand Valley and member of the excavation team led by Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University in Israel, said that Gath was occupied until it was destroyed following a siege around 830 B.C. It has been depicted as the most important of the five principal cities of the “Philistine Pentapolis,” along with Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza and Ekron.

“This discovery shows the powerful status of Gath during the time of the early Israelite monarchy in 9th or 10th century B.C.E., meaning the Judahite kingdom could not have controlled Philisita until after Gath was destroyed around 830 B.C.,” said Arnold.

Along with the monumental gate, the team also exposed the remains of a fortified wall, a temple, an iron production facility, pottery and other objects typically associated with Philistine culture. Arnold added that the team additionally found evidence of widespread destruction that took place in the city after the Aramean siege of Gath, as well as the earliest known siege system in the world comprised of manmade trenches surrounding the site on three sides.

The 12 students participating are part of the Study Abroad Israel program, through the Barbara H. Padnos International Center at Grand Valley.

“Every find has significance, but the ones we found really opened the gates, figuratively and literally, to what the biblical city of Gath contained, and what happened to it and its inhabitants,” said Kelly Darcy, a junior advertising and public relations major serving on the expedition team. “The more we dug, the more artifacts we found, thus giving us a better idea of what the households we were working in really looked like, what every day life was like and what the occupations were.”

Aside from Darcy, Arnold’s team of students consists of Keegan Brewster, Parryss Carter-McGee, Jesse Dedic, Kimberly Crago, Kara Larson, Emily Gilhooly, Robert Tissot, Natalie Renkes, Dylan Rowe, Gabe Hassenthaler and Christopher Long. Arnold said more students will receive the opportunity to participate in this ongoing research in Israel at the site through this program in 2017.

Archaeologists have been excavating in this general region of Israel for the past 30 years; however, little research had been conducted at Tell es-Safi/Gath until “The Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath” began in 1996. Arnold joined the excavation team in 2012.

For more information about these discoveries, visit the expedition blog at https://gath.wordpress.com.

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Matthew Makowski
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