Speculations on the Qeiyafa Polity, and its Possible Conquest by Gath

The Qeiyafa Polity (my name) is a Late Iron I (late 11th C BC, extending into 10th; c. 1030-c. 970 BC; note that Late Iron I extends to c. 940 BC) non-Philistine polity proposed in several areas of the scholarly community. It was briefly mentioned in my previous post on Qeiyafa. The polity extended to Beth-Shemesh in the North, where pottery similar to that of Qeiyafa was found. Judging by Qeiyafa’s gates, the capital of the kingdom was likely at Socoh or Azekah, and very probably encompassed both cities. Qeiyafa was likely a lookout fortress of this polity, guarding the road and sending fire-signals to the two cities. Undoubtedly evidence of a strong Late Iron I settlement at Azekah will be found in a few seasons (the first beginning July 2012) if this hypothesis is to be sustained.

A map of the kingdoms in the east Shephelah area, the kingdoms’ territory being minimal.

There are also certain biblical passages which may have relevance to this hypothesis.

1 Sam 23, esp. v. 3-1 Samuel 22-23 seems to describe the caves of Adullam as being substantially free of Philistine influence, but Keilah being outside of Judah. Now, Keilah was disputed territory during the Amarna period between Jerusalem and Gath, and, with Jerusalem being generally out of the picture, it is quite likely that Gath would take control. However, since the Philistines in Samuel are described as raiding it, and it is outside of Judah, it seems the author of 1 Sam 23 thought of Keilah as being at the border of Judah, with Keilah having the same disputed status as it did in Amarna times. With the Judahite state establishment not having power before Late IIa, it is unlikely this story reflects Iron I conditions, but, rather, a period between 849 BC and c. 820 BC, with Libnah in revolt.

But, who took over the Azekah polity? The likely answer is Gath. Qeiyafa lasted a short period of time, and was not re-occupied until the Hellenistic Period. As for Beth-Shemesh, it was not re-occupied after its destruction until the Aramean period or later. While Gath remains the most likely option for the destroyer of the Qeiyafa polity, this hypothesis cannot be treated with certainty until the Azekah excavations reach to the Iron I levels (which should be in three years or so).

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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