Tel Arad Fortress

Tel Arad Fortress

An Ancient Israelite Fortress with a Temple to Yahweh

The Israelite fortress at Arad is unique in the Land of Israel. It’s the only site excavated with modern archaeological methods that contains a continuous archaeological record from the period of the Judges (c. 1200 B.C.) to the Babylonian destruction of the First Temple (580 B.C.). This distinction promises to make Arad the type-site for pottery chronology, especially in southern Israel, against which pottery from other sites can be confidently tested and dated. Not only is the pottery sequence continuous, but the timelines between the various strata during which the Israelite fortress was built and rebuilt are for the most part clear and can often be connected with well-known historical and datable events.

Arad is also special for other reasons. The Israelite fortress there was found to contain the only Israelite temple ever discovered in an archaeological excavation.

The excavation of the fortress also yielded a unique series of inscriptions. The inscriptions, written for the most part with ink on potsherds—called ostraca (singular, ostracon)—include political, administrative and sometimes even religious documents. Other sites have yielded ostraca collections—for example, the Lachish letters and the Samaria ostraca—but each of those collections belonged to only one major stratum and time period. At Arad the inscriptions span a period of 350 years and cover six different strata. In all, more than one hundred texts and fragments were recovered. Why at Arad? The answer is twofold, relating to where and to who.

Read the rest of Arad in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.