All Israel

Monumental gate of possibly oldest city in Israel found near southern city of Kiryat Gat

Gate was dated to 3,300 BC

The ancient gate uncovered at Tel Erani. (Photo: Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority)

Israeli archaeologists discovered a monumental gate during excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in Tel Erani, near the city of Kiryat Gat, according to Israel's Kan news.

The gate and adjacent remains of a defensive system were dated to the Early Bronze Age around 3,300 B.C., possibly making these the oldest remains of a city and the beginning of urbanism itself in Israel and the Middle East.

"This is the first time that a gate of such dimensions has been discovered from the Early Bronze Age 1B," Excavation Director Emily Bischof explained.

"In order to build the gate and the walls, stones needed to be brought from a distance, bricks made and the fortification system built. This is not a project of one or two people, the fortification system indicates social organization, which symbolizes the beginning of urbanism."

The gate was preserved to a height of about one and a half meters, leading into the ancient city with a corridor made up of huge stones.

The ancient gate uncovered at Tel Erani. (Photo: Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority)

The same type of stones, together with mud bricks, were used to build two towers at the sides of the gate. The fortifications of the city included a wall that was discovered in earlier excavations and connects to the gate and the towers.

"It is likely that any passerby, merchant, or enemy who wanted to enter Tel Erani, had to pass through this impressive gate," says Martin-David Pasternak, an IAA researcher.

"The gate not only protected the settlement in practice but conveyed the impression that you are entering a place of great power, that is organized politically, socially and economically. It was an outward message - perhaps also to Egypt, which at that time began the process of uniting into a great empire under Pharaoh Narmer."

The excavations are carried out by the IAA and funded by Israel’s national water company Mekorot, which intended to lay a new water pipe leading to the city of Kiryat Gat.

According to Israeli law, before any major construction project, the site has to be analyzed by the IAA to make sure no archaeological remains are destroyed. If antiquities are found, a salvage excavation will be required.

Until now, the oldest city gate in Israel was discovered in Tel Arad in the Negev desert. That gate is believed to have been built some 300 years later than the gate found in Tel Erani.

Tel Erani was first documented by Claude Reignier Conder and Herbert Kitchener during the 1870s. It has been identified with a number of biblical sites, among them Gath, Libnah or Eglon, but none of these could ever be confirmed by archaeological analysis.

"Tel Erani, which measures about 150 dunams (37 acres), is a significant ancient urban center that operated here in the region, during the Early Bronze Age," said Dr. Yitzhak Paz, an archaeologist specializing in the period. "The mound is part of a large and significant settlement system that was established in the southwest of the Land of Israel at that time.”

“It is possible to identify the first signs of urbanization processes, such as settlement planning, social stratification and public construction. This is a significant discovery, which changes the dating of the beginning of urbanization in Israel," he added.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

All Israel
Receive latest news & updates
    A message from All Israel News
    Help us educate Christians on a daily basis about what is happening in Israel & the Middle East and why it matters.
    For as little as $5, you can support ALL ISRAEL NEWS, a non-profit media organization that is supported by readers like you.
    Donate to ALL ISRAEL NEWS
    Popular Articles
    Latest Stories