Saturday, April 4, 2009

Abraham's Gate

"Abraham's Gate" at Tel Dan in the north.

The ancient structure from the Canaanite period of the Bronze Age is made of mud and is thought to have been built around 1750 B.C.E. The authority named the archaeological site for Abraham, the first patriarch of the Jewish people, indicating that it dates from the period of Abraham.

The gate was uncovered in 1979 but more recently underwent restoration. It is composed of three arches and constructed of sun-dried mud brick on a foundation of large basalt stones. The gate, which in ancient times stood seven meters tall, has been restored to its original height. It features two towers and a horizontal structure linking them below the arches, the oldest arches ever found in the Land of Israel.

Archaeologists specializing in the Bronze Age suggest caution in identifying the structure. Raphael Greenberg of Tel Aviv University's archaeology department commented that he "doesn't know any academic archaeologist who uses the Bible as a guide to describing remains from such an early period. There may be a connection with Abraham in the metaphoric sense, but not more than that. Today the era of the patriarchs is not taught as an archaeological period. There are even differences of opinion regarding the period of King David and King Solomon, which is already 700 years later."

Oldest arch

Greenberg said that in any event, the gate is one of the most impressive finds of its time. He noted that not only is it the oldest arch in the country, but it also reflects a revival of urban life in the Land of Israel, a product of the influence of city life in Syria at the time.

Ze'ev Margalit, who is responsible for archaeological preservation at the parks authority, indicated that "the gate is almost 4,000 years old and is made of mud brick. The Bible recounts that the people of Dan took Abraham's nephew Lot prisoner, and Abraham came to Dan to rescue him, but it is hard to confirm whether or not Abraham passed through the gate."


Shoshanah Selavan said...

the bible does not say the people of Dan took Lot prisoner

Jonathan Kantrowitz said...

Lot was kidnapped. Abraham pursued Lot and his kidnappers as far as Dan, and then even further, to a locale near Damascus.

So Abraham was at Dan, and therefore may have walked through the gate.