Newly discovered archeological evidence supports the existence of a united monarchy of Israel as far back as the 10th century BCE, which just so happens to coincide with the reign of the Biblical King David. The findings have been published in the journal Radiocarbon.
A team led by Avraham Faust and Yair Sapir, from Bar-Ilan University, have spent 10 years digging at the site of Tel 'Eton in the Hebron hills halfway between Jerusalem and Gaza, Israel. Here, they excavated a "four-room house" on the highest part of the mound that dates back to the 10th century BCE, which they've nicknamed the "Governor's Residency" on account of its grandeur.
For years, it was believed that the dearth of archeological remains from the era of David and Solomon implied the civilization at the time was relatively unsophisticated – ruled by a handful of local chiefs rather than a monarch who presided over a kingdom that expanded beyond Jerusalem's city limits. Of course, these finds do not prove the existence of a man, who according to the Bible, took down a giant and conquered Jerusalem, but it does go to show that social complexity existed in Judah as far back as the early Iron Age – as well as just how deceiving archeological sites can be.
In a statement, the authors stress that "the association with David is not based on direct archaeological evidence, but solely on circumstantial grounds."
The building, which had two stories and a floorplan of 225 square meters (2,422 square feet), was destroyed in the 8th century BCE, when the region was invaded by an Assyrian army. There are still the remains of arrowheads scattered on the floor. However, the date when construction started on the site has been much harder to determine.
To find out, the team extracted samples from the foundation and floors and used radiocarbon dating to determine their age. Aligning with other finds, including the foundation deposits themselves, the radiocarbon results reveal the earliest sections of the building were assembled between the late 11th century and third quarter of the 10th century BCE, at which point the area was going through the early Iron Age (1200 BCE - 1000BCE).
It is much earlier than previously thought – a classic example of the old house effect, the researchers say. This is when a building or settlement had been active for centuries but the only remains still in existence date back to its later phase, giving archaeologists an unrealistic idea of the age of a building (usually underestimating how old it really is).
"From their long lives – sometimes centuries – very little will be found, and even less will be reported," explained Faust. "Archaeologists should therefore be careful when they conclude that the rarity of finds from these eras indicates that society was poor, and lacked social complexity."