An aerial view of the Khirbet Qeiyafa dig
An aerial view of the Khirbet Qeiyafa digSkyview/Archaeological Authority

Three unique public buildings, the first of their kind ever found in the Judea area, have been unearthed by Hebrew University and Archaeology Authority archaeologists in the past year, it was revealed Thursday. The buildings date to the tenth century before the Common Era – the period in which King David reigned in Jerusalem.

And in fact, say Hebrew University archaeologist Yossi Garfinkel and Archaeology Authority official Saar Ganor, one of the buildings is indeed a palace used by King David himself.

The buildings were unearthed as part of a seven year archaeology project at Khirbet Qeiyafa, also known as the Elah Fortress, near Beit Shemesh, and thought to be the Biblical city of Sha'arayim. The city is heavily fortified, and is typical of other Judean cities that were established during the period of the Kings, before the destruction of the First Temple, said the archaeologists.

The palace building contains rooms that appear intended for residence (based on size, location in the building, and other factors). The building sits atop a high hill, and looks down on other buildings in the city, in addition to having a wide view towards the west, with the Mediterranean visible on clear days. In addition to the palace, a building that appears to be a royal storehouse or workhouse was uncovered, with evidence of metal works and other industries, in addition to areas for storage of food and other items. A third building was likely an administrative center for the collection of crop taxes from farmers in the area, the team said.

The buildings were destroyed partially during the Byzantine period about 1,400 years after they were built. They were later used by local Bedouin to house their animals, and the Bedouin name for the site is Khirbet Daoud, or David's ruin.

In a statement, Garfinkel and Ganor said that “until now we have not found palaces that could be dated to the era of the tenth century BCE as clearly as this one can be. Khirbet Qeiyafa was apparently destroyed in 980 BCE, in one of the battles between the Jews and Philistines. The palace and other findings there give us a clearer understanding of the history of the Judean Kings.

As a result of the find, the Archaeology Authority, together with the Environment and Housing Ministries, have cancelled a large building project that was set to go up in the area. Instead, the area will be declared a national park, one that will doubtlessly attract a large number of visitors who will flock to the “suburban palace” of King David.