Has King David's citadel been found?

Published 06 May 2014  |  

An Israeli archaeologist believes he has found the Citadel which was captured by King David in his conquest of Jerusalem.

Archaeologist Eli Shukron, who recently left Israel's Antiquities Authority to work as a lecturer and tour guide, was quoted by the Washington Post saying: "This is the citadel of King David, this is the Citadel of Zion, and this is what King David took from the Jebusites.

"The whole site we can compare to the Bible perfectly."

Mr Shukron's £5.9 million excavation, centred in an Arab-dominated region of Jerusalem, began in 1995 and was made accessible to tourists last month.

It reveals a fortification made up of five-ton stones stacked in a six metre wide arrangement, surrounding a narrow shaft where water from a natural spring would have been diverted into a carved pool.

These constructions represent the second largest buildings of their kind in the area, only beaten by the Second Jewish Temple constructed by King Herod in approximately 100 BC.

Pottery shards found around the site have been dated to 1800 BC, meaning that the building was constructed 800 years before David's conquest.

Mr Shukron believes that this matches the citadel that David is described as capturing in the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel. According to the text, David's soldiers are ordered to enter the walled city via the water channel.

But not all the archaeologists working on the site agree with Mr Shukron's conclusions. Ronny Reich, who was Mr Shukron's colleague on the dig until 2008, believes that more pottery from the time of David's conquest should have been found.

In the Washington Post, Mr Reich said: "The connection between archaeology and the Bible has become very, very problematic in recent years."

Mr Shukron believes that because the fortification was in constant use after David's defeat of the Jebusites, the older pottery would likely have been cleared out.

He argues that no other site discovered so far is remotely similar to the citadel the Bible describes.

"I know every little thing in the City of David. I didn't see in any other place such a huge fortification as this," said Mr Shukron.

Most of the pottery discovered dates to approximately 100 years after David's conquest, but two shards have been confirmed to be from the period surrounding David's conquest.

The excavation has been controversial because it has been funded in part by the Jewish nationalist organisation, the Ir David Foundation that funds the construction of guarded homes for Jews in Arab areas of eastern Jerusalem.

Doron Spielman, the vice president of the Ir David Foundation, said in the Washington Post: "We open the Bible and we see how the archaeology and the Bible actually come together in this place."

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