Tel Dan is one of the most important sites in the ancient Near East, in general, and for biblical archaeology, in particular. Situated at the base of snow-capped Mount Hermon on the headwaters of the Jordan, Dan has been an important settlement from the Neolithic period (ca. 5,000 BCE) through the early modern period. Archaeological highlights include massive Early Bronze Age fortifications (ca. 2900-2200), the earliest preserved mudbrick arched gate in the world (ca. 1900-1500 BCE), a spectacular treasure-filled Mycenaean tomb from the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1500-1200 BCE), an early Iron Age I agrarian settlement that some associate with the Israelites (ca. 1200-1000 BCE), major fortifications and what is apparently an Israelite temple from the Iron Age II (ca. 1000-700 BCE), and various figurines, statues, and inscriptions from the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods. Perhaps the most famous find from Tel Dan is a stela, likely commissioned by Hazael of Aram sometime in the 9th century BCE, identifying a Judahite king from the "house of David" and thus providing the only extrabiblical reference to the famed King David from the Bible.


In the Bible, the site of Tel Dan makes its first appearance in Genesis 14:14 as a place unto which Abram chased the captors of Lot, but in two other narratives the site features more prominently. In Judges 17-18 it is the final resting place for the itinerant Tribe of Dan who leave the Coastal Plain and overpower a peaceful and unsuspecting people of Canaanite Laish (the same name of the city in 18th century BCE texts from Egypt and Syria, and in the 15th century BCE conquest list of Thutmose III) before renaming the city Dan and installing a Levitical priest descended from Moses as priest in a shrine there. The religious significance of the site is again highlighted in 1 Kings 12 in a narrative that describes Jeroboam's installation of a golden calf at the site accompanied by sacrificial pilgrim festivals (cf. also Amos 8). Dan is also mentioned as a victim of the conquest of Ban-Hadad of Aram in 1 Kings 15:20 and as the northern limit of the idealized borders of the kingdom in the biblical refrain "from Dan to Beersheva" in the biblical histories (cf. Jeremiah 4:15).