The Highway Over Tel Beth Shemesh

Archaeologists disagree on whether the highway running over Tel Beth Shemesh should be expanded or not. That was the plan when a salvage dig was initiated several years ago, but now one of the responsible archaeologists claims that the site must be preserved at all costs.

Not so, says Prof. Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University. “The extent [of the tell] is huge, but there is nothing special there or grandiose that would justify turning the site into a tourist attraction.”

Yesterday’s article in Haaretz magazine (premium) walks through the politics of the decision. From those interested in the archaeological results, the main discovery is that Judahites returned to living at the site soon after the Assyrian destruction in 701 BC. This contradicts the theory of some that there was a long occupation gap, possibly the result of an Assyrian policy forbidding resettlement. Whether or not such a finding justifies building a tunnel, overpass, or alternate route is the point of dispute.

HT: Joseph Lauer

Beth Shemesh new excavations aerial from southwest, ws062018211
Tel Beth Shemesh from the south, June 2018

One thought on “The Highway Over Tel Beth Shemesh

  1. The responses from both Lederman & Lipschits surprised me. The former was previously of the same opinion as that of Barkay & Vaughn regarding all LMLKs being evidence of pre-Assyrian, late-8th-century occupation; whereas the latter has been arguing (as I have) that certain types of LMLKs indicate post-Assyrian, early-7th-century occupation. The single LMLK shown in the photo is the type that both I & Lipschits would identify as late, so preservation of the site for additional digging would strengthen our interpretation of the data. 44 LMLKs are mentioned in the news report, so I'm anxious for the formal publication of their findings. Overall I suspect this "new" Beth Shemesh site, together with the "old" one (excavated extensively in the 20th century), resembles Gezer (& to a lesser extent, Lachish). These findings indeed complement the Biblical record of Hezekiah's reign quite nicely, & this event is indeed a turning point for world history, & therefore seems worthy of a tourist park (for educational purposes). On a personal note, I'm indifferent to the modern transportation-construction controversy since I've never been there & don't know the full circumstances of the situation. Based on the aerial photos shown, I don't know why they can't simply route traffic around both sites in the unoccupied region of land. Roadway construction ain't rocket science.

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