Khirbet Qeiyafa

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Aerial view of Khirbet Qeiyafa

Khirbet Qeiyafa[1] is a major ancient site, located 30km southwest of Jerusalem. It is located on top of a hill that borders the Elah Valley to the north, and is thought to be a strategic location in the biblical kingdom of Judah.[2] The main directors for the excavations of this site were Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Khirbet Qeiyafa has identified it with the biblical city of Shaaraim.[3]

Features and Description

Located 30km southwest of Jerusalem and bordering the Elah Valley, Khirbet Qeiyafa was built on bedrock and covers a total area of 2.3 hectares, and is surrounded by enormous fortifications of megalithic stones, stretching around the city over 700m and built in a rough cicle. Excavations have so far uncovered just under 20% of the total area of the site, over 200m of the city wall, and other features including ten houses, two gates and a pillar building. The occupation of Khirbet Qeiyafa lasted between 1020-980 BC,[4] when its occupation came to a sudden destruction indicated by "hundreds of restorable pottery vessels, stone utensils and metal objects left on the floors of the houses."[5]

Khirbet Qeiyafa is the only known site from the First Temple Period that has two gates.[6] Both gates are about of the same size with four chambers, and they are located in the south and west of the ancient fortification. Khirbet Qeiyafa also possesses a casemate city wall. The urban planning Khirbet Qeiyafa is only typical of ancient Judahite sites, including Beersheba, Tell Beit Mirsim, Tell en-Nasbeh and Tell Beth-Shemesh, and completely unlike any Philistine or Canaanite sites.[7]


According to 1 Chronicles 4:31, the occupation of Shaaraim came to an end in the reign of David (1010-970 BC), coinciding with the destruction date assigned to Khirbet Qeiyafa of 980 BC. Furthermore, the ancient site of Khirbet Qeiyafa has two gates.[8] The name Shaaraim means two gates. Both Khirbet Qeiyafa and Shaaraim are Judahite cities. This has lead the identification of Khirbet Qeiyafa with the biblical city of Shaaraim.


  1. Khirbet Qeiyafa Archaeological Project
  2. see reference 1
  3. 2008. Y. Garfinkel and S. Ganor. "Khirbet Qeiyafa: Sha'arayim". Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 8: Article 22.
  4. Garfinkel, Y., and Katharina Streit. "Radiometric Dating of the Iron Age City." Khirbet Qeiyafa 2 (2014): 2009-2013. pg. 368.
  5. see reference 1.
  6. Y. Garfinkel, S. Ganor and J.B. Silver, in press. Did the Ancient City of Khirbet Qeiyafa/Sha'arim have two gates? Biblical Archaeology Review.
  7. Garfinkel, Yosef. Data, Paradigms and Paradigm-Collapse Trauma: from Biblical Archaeology to Brutal Biblical Archaeology. 2012.
  8. see reference 6.