GIBEON, WEST BANK/ISRAEL


Photo of Gibeon (El Jib) 1931, The ancient city was on the upper hill to the right of the buildings, Library of Congress Collection.

Gibeon was located next to El Jib about eight miles north of Jerusalem by James B. Pritchard. 

The word "Gibeon" appears 41 times in the Bible (ASV).

Gibeon was excavated by James B. Pritchard of the University of Pennsylvania 1956-1960, and 1962.  The ancient city during Iron Age I-II was about 16 acres.  The sixteen acres at the top of the hill yielded EB, MB, Iron Age, Greek and Byzantine remains.  No LBA houses were found.  On the sides of the hill there were tombs there was one LBA tomb found to contain two burial chambers joined by a hole in the wall.  The tombs were labeled tomb 10A and 10B.  There were problems in the Book of Joshua after British excavations at Jericho could not verify the account in the Bible.  The finding of 24 wine jar handles deeply inscribed 'Gibeon,' and other jar handles lightly inscribed 'Gibeon' at the site was evidence the location of Gibeon was at El Jib.  There was no evidence of the Late Bronze Age royal city as described in the Book of Joshua existed at Gibeon.  A pool as described in 2 Samuel during the time of David was found at Gibeon.  Pritchard estimated the pool was dug at the beginning of Iron Age I.  

Mycenaean and Cypriot pottery imports ceased about 1200 BC during the end of the Bronze Age the beginning of the Iron Age.  Widespread warfare disrupted cities and trade in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.  Some historians speculated earthquakes and drought may have caused some of the damage.  The presence of these imports and locally made imitations of the imports is used as a marker for the Late Bronze Age strata found at an archaeological dig.  

Long collar rim storage jars were used in the 12th century BC along with short collar rim storage jars.  After the 12th century BC there were short collar rim storage jars and not long collar rim storage jars in the Central Hill Country (N. Lapp 1981).  Variations in the shape of bowl sides and the rims of the bowls have also been used to note transitions through this interval.   

The town on the small hill to the left of the large hill (see photo above) is El Jib.  When Pritchard arrived in the late 1950's this town was four acres in size.  During the search for tombs the entire area was surveyed.  There was no late LBA- pottery found except in the LBA tombs.  Evidence suggests there may have been a small Egyptian controlled manor or garrison in the area as scarabs of Egyptian pharaohs were found in the two tombs.  Just as it was in Pritchard's day, there are problems trying to match the archaeological record to the Book of Joshua in the Bible.  

They found pottery on the surface of the hill, and in the diggings.  No large scale late LBA walled city was located on the 16 acre hill.  The finding of two joined LBA tombs allowed Pritchard to declare he had found evidence for a Late Bronze Age occupation.  In later writings he described the stories in the Bible about Gibeon as folk tales.  W.F. Albright had stated the conquest of the Biblical Joshua occurred close to the end of the Late Bronze Age.  Pritchard did not find as much as a Late Bronze Age house, much less a walled city from the late LBA period.  Only a small fraction of the hill was excavated.  There were various trenches to discover the extent of the city walls around the perimeter and excavations near the water tunnel and spring.  This area near the sprong would have been prime real estate as it was more convenient to fetch water close by than from a distance.    

Bibliography:

Gibeon Where the Sun Stood Still,  Pritchard, 1962
Winery, Defenses, and Soundings at Gibeon, Pritchard, 1964
The Water System of Gibeon, Pritchard, 1961
The Bronze Age Cemetery at Gibeon, Pritchard, 1963
Hebrew Inscriptions and Stamps from Gibeon, Pritchard, 1959
The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. XXIII, 1960, "Industry and Trade at Biblical Gibeon," Pritchard
The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. XXIV, 1961, "A Bronze Age Necropolis at Gibeon," Pritchard
University Museum Bulletin, Vol. 21, No. 3, March 1957, "Discovery of the Biblical Gibeon," Pritchard, University Museum, Philadelphia
University Museum Bulletin, Vol. 22, No. 2, June 1958, "A Second Excavation at Gibeon," Pritchard, University Museum, Philadelphia
Published and Unpublished Works Including Newspaper Clippings, Letters, Notes, Field Notebooks, Photos, Site Plans, etc. in the University of Pennsylvania Museum Archives
Reflections of a Digger, Froelich Rainey, 1992, University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania

Articles About Gibeon in the University Museum Journal: Expedition, Back Issues, Links to PDF Copies:

The Wine Industry at Gibeon: 1959 Discoveries, Pritchard, Expedition Volume 2, Number 1 Fall 1959

The Bible Reports on Gibeon, Pritchard,  Expedition Volume 3, Number 4 Summer 1961

Civil Defense at Gibeon, Pritchard, Expedition Volume 5, Number 1 Fall 1962

 

SEE ALSO:  OLD JERICHO


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