The Jewish town of Tekoa in eastern Gush Etzi
The Jewish town of Tekoa in eastern Gush EtziIsrael news photo: Flash 90

For unknown reasons, Israeli authorities are keeping a lid on an archaeological find that may turn out to be a royal castle from David's time, reports the newspaper Makor Rishon. The newspaper did not give any details that might identify the exact location of the find.

According to the paper, the site was identified by Binyamin Tropper, of the Kfar Etzion Field School. As he descended into a cave in the area of southern Jerusalem, he identified what professionals call "a proto-aeolic capital" connected to a column.

The capital – which is the decorated stone at the head of an ancient column – dates back to the Biblical era, according to Field School Director Yaron Rosental. Only 30 such capitals have been found in Israel so far, and only five of them were found in areas in which Biblical-era kings lived.

Unlike all of the other proto-aeolic capitals found in Israel – this one is not separate from the column but connected to it. The weight of the column and capital are estimated to be about five tons.

"For reasons that are not completely clear," the newspaper writes, "several authorities in Israel have decided to silence the find, which may mark a breakthrough in the perception of the period of King David and his son, Shlomo [Solomon], and of the entire Judean kingdom."

The capital "apparently indicates that an entire temple or castle is buried beneath it," the newspaper adds. However, when Rosental contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority to inform them of the find, the person he spoke to simply said – "Yaron, good for you. You found it, but we already are aware of it. Now forget about the whole thing and keep your mouth shut."

Rosental said that he later found out that the IAA had known about the site for 18 months. He said that no digging has taken place since then, and that even steps like cordoning off the area, to prevent damage to the rare find, have not been taken.

Rosental calls this "a scandal" but says that no less worrisome is that the state appears to have plans to move the separation fence between Israel and the PA in a way that will leave the site in the PA's hands. However, there is still time to alter the route of the fence by 100 yards and leave the cave in Israeli hands. He expressed the wish that the authorities cordon off the site and keep it in Israeli hands until it has been thoroughly excavated, whereas he would not mind Palestinian Arabs running the site later on and profiting from the fees charged to visit it.

According to Rosental, excavation of the site has potential for uncovering a complete castle and possibly an entire neighborhood from the Judean kings' period, for the first time ever. "We appear to have a complete castle here," he said. "Those who lived here after it did not know of its existence and thus, instead of using its stones to build a new building as was the usual practice, left it intact." The details found inside could be "amazing."

The IAA confirmed to Makor Rishon that the find is an important one that appears to date to the period of Judean kings. However, the IAA added, the subject is "sensitive" and "requires serious and responsible handling." They added that they hope to be able to explore the findings.

The IDF said that it offered the IAA "the full assistance needed" in order to remove the capital and column from the site.