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Tel Beer Sheva

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Tel Beer Sheva

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Basic Information

Location Tel Beer Sheva, Beersheba, Israel
Country Israel
City Beer Sheva

General Information

Open to visitors yes
Need appointment no
Handicap accessibility no
Geographical Coordinates 31.24592,34.84234


General

Tel Be'er Sheva (Hebrew: תל באר שבע‎) is an archaeological site in southern Israel believed to be the remains of the biblical town of Beer Sheva. It lies the east of the modern city of Beer Sheva and east of the Bedouin town of Tel Sheva.

History and time period

Beer Sheva is mentioned numerous times in the Tanakh, often as a means of describing the borders of the Land of Israel, extending from "Be'er Sheva to Dan" (see Judges 20:1-3, I Samuel 3:19-21). The name is derived from the Hebrew Be'er meaning a well, and Sheva meaning "to swear an oath." Tel Be'er Sheva was excavated from 1969 to 1976 by the Tel Aviv University Institute of Archaeology, directed by Prof. Yohanan Aharoni, except for the last season which was led by Prof. Ze'ev Herzog. These excavations were directed towards uncovering the Iron Age Israelite city at the site. Excavations were renewed by Prof Herzog between 1993 and 1995 in order to complete the uncovering of the town's water system. The site was renovated by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority in 1990. In 2003, its water system was opened to the public. The excavated town is now part of the Tel Beer Sheva National Park.

Special discoveries

Archaeological finds indicate that the Tel was inhabited from the Chalcolithic period, around 4000 BCE, through to the sixteenth century CE. This was probably due to the abundance of underground water, as evidenced by the numerous wells in the area. The settlement itself dates from the early Israelite period, around the tenth century BCE. The streets of ancient Be'er Sheva are laid out in a grid, with separate areas for administrative, military, commercial and residential use. The town is regarded as the first planned settlement in the region. The site is also noteworthy for its elaborate water system and huge cistern, carved out of the rock beneath the town.


Horned altar Replica of horned altar Beersheba is referred to in the Bible as a site of cultic importance. It appears as a sanctified site in the patriarchal stories while the prophet Amos denounces worship at the town (Amos 5:5, 8:14). The fifth season of excavations at the Tel uncovered definite evidence of a temple at the site, when the well-dressed ashlar blocks of a large horned altar, reminiscent of small Iron Age incense altars, were found in secondary use in the walls of a storehouse. This structure had been destroyed in the late 8th century BCE, probably during Sennacherib's campaign against Judah in 701 BCE, and was apparently reconstructed at the time of the dismantling of the altar. The find, along with the contemporary sanctuary in Tel Arad, may therefore serve as confirmation of the reforms of King Hezekiah and his suppression of shrines outside Jerusalem, described in 2 Kings 18. The altar is currently on display in the Israel Museum, though a replica stands at Tel Be'er Sheva.

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