The Tel Arad lies in the eastern Negev north of the Arad rift and covers an area of 52 hectares. It consists of the ruins of a Canaanite city from the Early Bronze Age and fortresses built by the kings of Judea dating to the Israelite period. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has opened the site to the public and a tourist center, its design inspired by biblical stories. is presently being constructed at the foot of the site. The center will provide information on desert excursions and visits to a Bedouin tent. This place was filmed by the team of 360HolyPlaces™ for you in Virtual Reality 360°.
Arad in the Bible and Egyptian Sources
Arad is mentioned in the Bible as one of the cities located in the eastern Negev whose inhabitants prevented the Israelites from entering the “Promised Land”: “When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who dwelt in the Negeb, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, he fought against Israel, and took some of them captive.” (Numbers 21 :1).
The King of Arad appears in the list of Canaanite kings vanquished by Joshua Bin-Nun during the conquest of the Land of Israel
(Joshua 12 :14). An account is also given of the Kenite tribe which settled in Arad, as is stated: “And the descendants of the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up with the people of Judah from the city of palms into the Wilderness of Judah, which lies in the Negeb near Arad.” (Judges 1 :16). In an inscription uncovered in the city of Karnak, Egypt, Arad appears in a list of cities subjugated by Pharaoh Shishak, king of Egypt, in the year 925 B.C.E. The locales ancient name – “Tel Arad” – has been preserved among the Arabs to this day.
Ancient Arad was uncovered in archaeological excavations started in 1962, under the joint direction of Ruth Amiran and Yohanan Aharoni. Excavations of the Canaanite city were carried out intermittently from the sixties throughout the eighties under the direction of Amiran while Aharoni concentrated his efforts on the excavation of the Israelite fortresses from 1963-1967. The Canaanite city was erected on an area rising 130 feet above its surroundings commanding the eastern Negev plains and adjacent to a major trade route leading to the Sinai and Transjordan. At the end of the fourth millennium B.C.E., the site consisted of a small village, which, by the beginning of the third millennium (Early Bronze Age), grew into a planned and fortified city covering an area of 10 hectares. The city was divided into quarters which housed the palace, shrines, residential buildings and marketplaces. Water supply was provided by the accumulation of surface runoff which flowed down the streets and drained into a large reservoir situated in a natural topographical depression at the center of the city. A thick-walled structure, which researchers call the “water citadel”, was erected next to it. The city’s inhabitants engaged in the agriculture of naturally irrigated land, breeding of sheep and cattle and trade. Arad fostered close ties with the southern Sinai region where copper mines operated. With the increasing use of copper, Arad became the center of trade for copper products, thanks to its location on the deserts edge and
on the fringe of settled land. The Canaanite city remained in existence for some 350 years (until c. 2650 B.C.E.). Excavations revealed a noticeable absence of any remnants of human settlement from the Late Bronze Age until the period of Israelite settlement. In effect, the site had laid abandoned for some 1500 years.
Habitation of Arad by the Israelites began in the 11th century B.C.E. on the highest part of the site. A small settlement was built in the form of a courtyard encircled by residential buildings. A fortress was erected on the site, apparently during the reign of King Solomon in the second half of the 10th century B.C.E. Four additional settlement strata were uncovered above this original fortress reflecting structural changes introduced by various Judean kings following their destruction by conquering armies. The fortress, surrounded by a wall 180 feet long and 164 feet wide, contains a unique Judean shrine, water system, residential structures and storehouses. Discovered inside the fortress, were some 200 clay shards bearing ink-inscribed or engraved writings cal led ostraca and dating from various periods of the Judean Kingdom as well as from the period of Persian rule. Over 100 of these ostraca are written in Hebrew and some 90 in Aramaic.Two particularly noteworthy ostraca include one citing the concept of the “House of Jehovah”, perhaps a reference to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem; and the other mentioning Edom and the king of Judah in what appears to be a discussion of the Edomite threat faced by the Judean military outpost at Arad. The varied written find is of immense importance to the study of the development of Hebrew writing.
Settlement following the Israelite Period
After the destruction of the First Temple in the year 586 B.C.E., the Arad fortress continued to serve as a military transit station during the time of Persian rule. The bulk of the Aramaic ostraca ascribed to the Persian period give lists detailing amounts of food and money, apparently referring to the local garrison’s needs. During the Hellenistic period, the fortress’ walls were rehabilitated and a fortified tower was constructed at its center. Under Roman hegemony, it was turned into a stronghold but ceased functioning in this capacity sometime during the second century B.C.E., apparently in the wake of the nabatean Kingdom’s annexation to the Roman Empire. After its capture by the Arabs in the seventh century C.E., it served as a khan (wayside inn) until its destruction in the eighth century. Tel Arad has remained uninhabited ever since.
(1) The Fortresses Mound
The six settlement strata uncovered at the Tel , represent fortresses dating from the period of the Judean Kingdom and the Hellenistic era. The wall, reconstructed at the site in its entirety, served to protect the Judean fortress during the 9th-6th centuries B.C.E. The remains of the solid-walled Hellenistic tower discovered at the center of the site were also reconstructed.
The tour starts out at the fortress gate (A), protected on either side by towers. Wooden stairs lead to the top of the Hellenistic tower (B), and to the observation post overlooking the fortress, the Canaanite city and the Negev plains. Residential structures were built adjoining the southern fortress wall. One of these, dubbed by researchers “the house of Elyashib” (C), was found to contain an archive of ostraca, of which 17 were dispatched to “Elyashib son of Oshiyahu”, apparently the fortress’ commander circa 600 B.C.E. Large, plastered ,subterranean water reservoirs (D) were hewn within the fortress compound and linked to a stone-hewn conduit running to the outside under the western wall and ending there. Water was raised from the well and poured through the conduit’s outer opening, from where it flowed to the reservoirs in side the fortress. A shrine (E), with a square altar, erected from bricks and rough stone, was built in the fortress ‘ northwestern section . The shrine, whose layout runs along an east-west axis, includes an inner courtyard, sanctuary and the Holy of Holies. A monument was found inside the Holy of Holies, whose entrance is flanked by two incense altars.
(2) The Temples
North of the main street lies a fenced-in built-up enclosure containing two twin temples and their courtyards. Altars, a hewn monument, a stone basin and articles of worship were discovered in this hallowed compound.
(3) The Palace
A closed structure was uncovered, south of the main street consisting of a central hall, living quarters, storerooms and chambers. This was, apparently,
(4) The Western Gate
The reconstructed western gate of the city is one of two discovered till now. It is located at the end of the main street, which runs from west to east, toward the water reservoir. the abode of the governor of the city.
(5) Residential Buildings
In the southern quarter of the city, a residential house known as the “Aradian House”, has been reconstructed using a building style characteristic of all the city ‘s dwellings. This broad-room house has its entrance set in one of the longitudinal walls with a step leading down to its interior house. Stone benches were constructed all along the structure’s wall s. On a stone pedestal at the center of the room stands a pillar supporting the ceiling which was made of wooden beams and branches.
(6) The City Wall
The Canaanite city was surrounded by a 7.9 feet wall, set with gates and secondary openings (postern gates). Watchtowers with a semi-circular or square contour were built along its outer side. A peripheral street, lined with houses, runs along the wall’s inner contour. A section of the wall and its towers has been reconstructed.
(7) The Well
The we ll was constructed towards the end of the time of the Judean Kingdom, at the center of the Canaanite water reservoir, to a depth of 52.5 feet. The wells water was transported to the distant fortress using pack animals. During the Herodian period (first century B.C.E.), the well was renovated and several plastered storage pools – some equipped with troughs – we re constructed nearby.
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