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Tel Lachish

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Tel Lachish

Tel Lachish1.JPG

Basic Information

Location Tel Lachish, Israel
Country Israel
City Shfelat Yehuda

General Information

Open to visitors yes
Need appointment no
Handicap accessibility no
Geographical Coordinates 31.56523,34.84855


Lachish (Hebrew: לכיש‎; Greek: Λαχις; Latin: Lachis) was an ancient town Near East town located at the site of modern Tell ed-Duweir in the Shephelah, a region between Mount Hebron and the maritime plain of Philistia (Joshua 10:3, 5; 12:11). The town was first mentioned in the Amarna letters as Lakisha-Lakiša (EA 287, 288, 328, 329, 335). According to the Bible, the Israelites captured and destroyed Lachish for joining the league against the Gibeonites (Joshua 10:31-33), but its territory was later assigned to the tribe of Judah (15:39) and became a part of the Kingdom of Israel.

History and time period

Occupation at the site of Lachish began in the Neolithic period, reaching appreciable size during the Early Bronze Age. The next significant development of the city came during the Middle Bronze II period when the area was under strong Egyptian influence. The next peak was the Late Bronze Age, when Lachish is mentioned in the Amarna Letters. This phase of the city was destroyed during the general devastation of the region ca. 1150 BC sometimes ascribed to the Sea Peoples. Rebuilding began in the Early Iron Age ca. 900 BC. Under Rehoboam, Lachish became the second most important city of the kingdom of Judah. In 701 BC, during the revolt of king Hezekiah against Assyria, it was captured by Sennacherib despite determined resistance (see Siege of Lachish). Some scholars believe that the fall of Lachish actually occurred during a second campaign in the area by Sennacherib ca. 688 BC. Nonetheless the site now contains the only remains of an Assyrian siege ramp in the Near East. Sennacherib later devoted a whole room in his palace for artistic representations of the siege on stone orthostats now in the British Muesum. The orthostats depict battering ramps, sappers, and other fighters along with Lachish's architecture and its surrender, these along with the archaeology give a good understanding of siege warfare of the period. The town later reverted to Judaean control, only to fall to Nebuchadnezzar in his campaign against Judah in 586 BC. During Old Testament times Lachish served an important protective function in defending Jerusalem and the interior of Judea. The easiest way to get a large attacking army (such as an Assyrian army, see Isaiah 36:2, Isaiah 37:8 and Jeremiah 34:7) up to Jerusalem was to approach from the coast. Lachish was one of several city/forts guarding the canyons that lead up to Jerusalem and greater Judea. In order to lay siege to Jerusalem an invading army would first have to take Lachish, which guarded the mountain pass. During the reign of Hezekiah, King of Judah, the Assyrians, under King Sennacherib, attempted to take Jerusalem, and, in that campaign, succeeded in taking Lachish (see 2 Chronicles 32:9 and Isaiah 36:2). Modern excavation of the site has revealed that the Assyrians built a stone and dirt ramp up to the level of the Lachish city wall, thereby allowing the soldiers to charge up the ramp and storm the city. Excavations revealed approximately 1,500 skulls in one of the caves near the site, and hundreds of arrowheads on the ramp and at the top of the city wall, indicating the ferocity of the battle. Biblical references to Lachish include Joshua 10:3, 5, 23, 31-35; Joshua 12:11; Joshua 15:39; 2 Kings 14:19; 2 Kings 18:14, 17; 2 Kings 19:8; 2 Chronicles 11:9; 2 Chronicles 25:27; 2 Chronicles 32:9; Nehemiah 11:30; Isaiah 36:2; Isaiah 37:8; Jeremiah 34:7; and Micah 1:13.

Special discoveries

The site of Tell ed-Duweir was first excavated in 4 seasons between 1932 and 1938 by the Wellcome-Marston Archaeological Research Expedition. The work was led initially by James Leslie Starkey until he was murdered by Arab bandits. The effort was completed by Olga Tufnell. In 1966 and 1968, in a dig which focused mainly on the "Solar Shrine", Yohanan Aharoni worked the site on behalf of Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University. More recently, excavation, and later restoration work was conducted between 1973 and 1994 by a Tel Aviv University Institute of Archaeology and Israel Exploration Society team led by David Ussishkin.

Classical Hebrew ostraca See also: Paleo-Hebrew alphabet Excavation campaigns by James Leslie Starkey recovered a number of ostraca (18 in 1935, three more in 1938) from the latest occupational level immediately before the Chaldean siege. They then formed the only known corpus of documents in classical Hebrew.

LMLK seals Another major contribution to Biblical archaeology from excavations at Lachish are the LMLK seals, which were stamped on the handles of a particular form of ancient storage jar. More of these artifacts were found at this site (over 400; Ussishkin, 2004, pp. 2151-9) than any other place in Israel (Jerusalem remains in second place with more than 300). Most of them were collected from the surface during Starkey's excavations, but others were found in Level 1 (Persian and Greek era), Level 2 (period preceding Babylonian conquest by Nebuchadnezzar), and Level 3 (period preceding Assyrian conquest by Sennacherib). It is thanks to the work of David Ussishkin's team that eight of these stamped jars were restored, thereby demonstrating lack of relevance between the jar volumes (which deviated as much as 5 gallons or 12 liters), and also proving their relation to the reign of Biblical king Hezekiah. The 1898 Reference by Bliss, contains numerous drawings, including examples of Phoenician, etc. pottery, and items from pharaonic Egypt, and other Mediterranean, and inland regions.

Identification of Tell ed-Duweir as Lachish

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Lachish was identified with Tell el-Hesi from a cuneiform tablet found there (EA 333). The tablet is a letter from an Egyptian official named Paapu, reporting cases of treachery involving a local kinglet, Zimredda. However this hypothesis is no longer accepted. More recent excavations have identified Tell ed-Duweir as Lachish beyond reasonable doubt.

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Time period

Biblical times