A team of archaeologists in Israel has unearthed the human remains of three individuals in what is believed to be the site of the Biblical city of Gezer, almost 3,200 years after its catastrophic destruction by the ancient Egyptians.
Excavations Verify Gezer’s Destruction by the Ancient Egyptians
Excavations at the site of the Biblical city of Gezer have revealed enough evidence that appears to verify the speculations of historians that Pharaoh Merneptah invaded and eventually destroyed Gezer in the 13th Century BC. “The heavy destruction suggests that the Egyptian pharaoh encountered much resistance from the Gezerites,” tells Haaretz Dr. Steven Ortiz of the Tandy Institute for Archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, who is also leading the excavations together with Dr. Sam Wolff from the Israel Antiquity Authority.
Soloman’s Gate at the archaeological site of Tel Gezer, Israel ( CC BY 2.5 )
Gezer’s Significance in Antiquity
As it is reported in a previous Ancient Origins article , Gezer is a biblical city strategically situated between Egypt and Mesopotamia which is associated with Joshua and Solomon. Excavations on the site have been going on since 1900, and it is considered the most excavated site around Jerusalem. During 2013 excavations, archaeologists discovered a new layer that belongs to an unknown pre-Solomonic city of the late Bronze Age.
According to the archaeologists excavating the site, the hidden city that was found was most likely destroyed by the Egyptians in the 18 th Dynasty. Several artifacts including pottery, seals and a scarab with the cartouche of Amenhotep III were found supporting the existence of the unknown city.
On the foundations of this ancient city, Gezer was later built by the Canaanites. According to the references in the Bible, Gezer was conquered by Egypt and later on was given to King Solomon as a wedding gift when in a clever political move he married the pharaoh’s daughter. Solomon had extensively fortified the city of Gezer with surrounding walls, in a similar manner to how he did with all other important cities.
Human Remains Unearthed for the First Time
During the tenth season of excavations at the site, archaeologists discovered in a large building the human remains of three individuals: two adults and a child, with the latter still wearing earrings. The destruction debris found inside of the building shows the fire was so catastrophic that the ceiling of one of the rooms collapsed, burying the adult and the child in a meter-thick layer of ash. The adult was so intensely burned that archaeologists couldn’t determine his sex by the remains of pelvic or torso bones.
Careful excavation of remains of adult found just outside the industrial room in Gezer (Image credit: Tandy Institute for Archaeology )
“The adult was lying on its back with arms above its head. The child, who was wearing earrings, was next to the adult, to the left. This room was filled with ash and collapsed mud brick. We can only guess what they were doing in the building on the eve of destruction. Were they hiding? Were they fleeing the Egyptian soldiers? Did they go back into the building to retrieve valuables?” Dr. Ortiz told Haaretz .
In the second room, to the north of where the remains of the two individuals were found, a third body (buried by stones) also showed clear signs of a violent death, “This individual attests to the violent nature of the destruction, as it is clear he experienced the trauma of the event,” Ortiz told Haaretz .
The remains found just outside the industrial room were preserved by stones that collapsed on top of the body (Image credit: Tandy Institute for Archaeology )
Ultimately, among the Egyptian jewelry that was found by the archaeologists there was a 13 th century amulet – which bears the official royal monikers of the Egyptian Pharaohs Thutmose III and Ramses II – and various scarabs and cylinder seals. The Tel Gezer Project had its last field season this June and will now enter a research and publication stage as Ortiz stated to Haaretz, “All the artifacts and the remains have been taken up to our lab in Jerusalem. We are looking forward to the post-excavation analysis and obtaining the results from the various experts.”