TEL GEZER, Israel (BP) — A discovery of ancient human remains by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary archaeologists has helped confirm Scripture’s portrayal of the city of Gezer in southern Israel.
The discovery, unearthed this summer by Southwestern’s Tandy Institute of Archaeology, included remains of two adults and a child inside a building that appeared to have been violently destroyed by Egyptians in the 13th century B.C., according to media reports. Because the Egyptians in that period preferred to keep vanquished foes alive, “the heavy destruction suggests the Egyptian pharaoh encountered much resistance from the Gezerites,” Southwestern archaeology professor Steven Oritz told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
That level of resistance, Ortiz told Baptist Press, suggests Gezer was among the more powerful cities in southern Canaan during Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land, as the biblical book of Joshua indicates. Egypt’s destruction of the city occurred either during or immediately preceding the period of Israel’s conquest, Ortiz said.
The new discovery “does fit in with what we know about Gezer in the biblical period,” said Ortiz, professor of archaeology and biblical backgrounds and director of the Tandy Institute. “The King of Gezer apparently was one of the leaders [in the region]. In the conquest accounts, we have him organizing other Canaanite kings. So the biblical narrative has this memory of Gezer being an important city.”
Gezer’s elevated position in central Judea allowed the city to control an important trade route running from the Mediterranean to Jerusalem and Jericho, Haaretz reported.
Joshua 10:33 states that “King Horam of Gezer went to help Lachish” when Joshua attacked it, “but Joshua struck him down along with his people, leaving no survivors.” Some 200-300 years later, Israel’s King Solomon received Gezer as a gift from the Egyptian pharaoh and established it as a fortification (1 Kings 9:15-17).
Ancient Egyptian documents also mention Gezer as a key city in the second millennium B.C., according to media reports.
The newly discovered human remains were discovered inside the ruins of a large building, Haaretz reported. The ceiling of one room apparently collapsed, burying an adult and a child in a meter-thick layer of ash. The other adult skeleton was found in a separate room beneath a pile of collapsed stones.
Artifacts discovered along with the remains included an amulet etched with the names of great Egyptian pharaohs, Haaretz reported.
In addition to Haaretz, the discovery has drawn media coverage from Fox News, Newsweek, Archaeology Magazine and Israel English News among other outlets.
“We’re just finishing our 10th excavation season [at Gezer], and we’re looking forward to publishing our material,” said Ortiz, co-director of the Tel Gezer excavations. “The importance of this archaeological excavation will highlight the work of the Tandy Institute and the archaeology program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We look forward to a Southern Baptist seminary being one of the leaders in the archaeology of the land of Israel,” Ortiz said.
Both Southwestern and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary have conducted archaeological digs at Tel Gezer. Among Southwestern’s previous projects was an excavation of Solomon’s fortified city.