Avraham Biran

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Avraham Biran[1] (born 23, October 1909 – died 16, September 2008) was a highly prominent Israeli archaeologist, and is mostly known today for his excavations at Tel Dan and his discovery of the Tel Dan Inscription, the first ancient inscription found to mention the existence of King David. Biran was also the director of the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem[2] and the president of the Israel Exploration Society.[3]

Excavations at Tel Dan[edit]

Avraham Biran was the director of excavations at the site of Tel Dan, formerly known as Tell-el Qadi. This site is located in northern Israel, at the bottom of Mount Hermon, and has been identified with the biblical city of Dan (Judges 18:29).[4] In 1966, the Israel Department of Antiquities announced the excavations of the newly discovered site of Tell Dan an emergency project to start, and almost instantly became a major archaeological expedition. By 1974, "it became a major archaeological project of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology..."[5]

Discovery of the Tel Dan Inscription[edit]

The Tel Dan Inscription was discovered 21 July 1993, in the vicinity of Tel Dan. The Tel Dan Inscription is an inscribed basal stone, and a fragment of what was originally a larger inscription that was smoothed for the purposes of writing. The inscription written in Early Aramaic, and dates to the ninth century BC. Its existence was first noted by the surveyor of the Tel Dan excavations, Gila Cook. According to Ariel Heimann of the geological survey of Israel, the stone used for the Tel Dan Inscription was of local basalt, meaning it had been produced locally in the region of Tel Dan.[6]

The preserved text of the Tel Dan Inscription reads as follows;

  • 1. [...] and cut [...]
  • 2. [...] my father went up [against him when] he fought at [...]
  • 3. And my father lay down, he went to his [ancestors] and the king of I[s-]
  • 4. rael entered previously in my father’s land. [And] Hadad made me king.
  • 5. And Hadad went in front of me, [and] I departed from [the] seven [...-]
  • 6. s of my kingdom, and I slew [seve]nty kin[gs], who harnessed thou[sands of cha-]
  • 7. riots and thousands of horsemen. [I killed Jo]ram son of [Ahab]
  • 8. king of Israel, and [I] killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin-]
  • 9. g of the House of David. And I set [their towns into ruins and turned]
  • 10. their land into [desolation ...]
  • 11. other [... and Jehu ru-]
  • 12. led over Is[rael ... and I laid]
  • 13. siege upon [...]

In line 9, the phrase "House of David" appears, referencing the dynasty of King David. After Biran's publication of this inscription, there was immediately a very large amount of subsequent publications from all sides of the scholarly dimensions. However, it is now virtually unanimously agreed upon by historians that the Tel Dan Inscription affirms the historicity of King David and that he ruled over a dynasty.[7]


  1. Avraham Biran
  2. Avraham Biran (1909-2008)
  3. Biran at Ninety
  4. Biran, Avraham. Biblical Dan. Israel Exploration Society, 1994.
  5. Biran, Avraham, and Joseph Naveh. "An aramaic stele fragment from Tel Dan." Israel Exploration Journal (1993): 81.
  6. see reference 5, pg. 84.
  7. Ackerman, Susan. When Heroes Love: the ambiguity of eros in the stories of Gilgamesh and David. Columbia University Press, 2012. pg. 156-157.