Archaeologist claims discovery of first Israelite structures

An archaeologist has claimed to have found structures shaped like human feet, which may have been built by the Israelites when they first entered the Land of Canaan.

Professor Adam Zertal, of Haifa University, said that the structures found in the Jordan Valley were "the first sites to have been built by the Israelites upon entering Canaan and manifest the biblical notion of claiming ownership of the land by setting feet on it", reports Haaretz.

Professor Zertal and his team discovered five foot-shaped structures at what is believed to be the biblical site of Gilgal.

Most archeologists do not believe that the events of the books of Exodus and Joshua - which tell of how the people of Israel fled Egypt and entered the Canaan Land - can be verified as historical events.

Professor Zertal however does claim to have found evidence which would support the stories told in the Old Testament books.

He once discovered a compound on Mount Ebal near Neblas. He claims that the site was used for the Covenant ceremony described in Joshua, although other archaeologists claim it is just a watchtower.

The book of Joshua tells of how the people of Israel went to Gilgal after crossing the river Jordan. A number of researchers believe that the name Gilgal comes from a collection of stones at the site which were used for rituals, although no archaeological evidence has been found to support this.

Five sites in the shape of human feet have been found in the Jordan Valley since 1990. All of them date from the 12th or 13th centuries BC. The shape of the structures suggests they were used as communal gathering places.

Professor Zertal said he believes the sites were used for ceremonies conducted following the Israelites entry into the Canaan Land.

He also said that the structures were the origin of the idea of the Jewish pilgrimage to Jerusalem known as “aliya la’regel” (ascending on foot).