TEL DAN

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). 

Mudbrick Gate

Mudbrick Gate

Dated to the Middle Bronze Age (1900-1500 BCE), this is the oldest of its kind in the world.

Mount Hermon

Mount Hermon

At over 9,000 feet high, Mount Hermon is often snow-capped late into the spring and its runoff feeds underground springs that provide sources for the Jordan River.

Temple Altar

Temple Altar

A massive four-horned altar apparently stood in the space reconstructed here by steel beams and likely served as a location for Israelite sacrifices.

Hellenistic Inscription

Hellenistic Inscription

This bilingual inscription in Aramaic and Greek commemorates a vow made to "the God who is at Dan."

Chariot Krater

Chariot Krater

This beautiful Mycenaean krater dating to the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1500-1200 BCE) bears witness to the wealth of the city of Dan at this time.

House of David Stela

House of David Stela

Here is the first section of the famous "House of David" stela, mentioning a king from the Davidic dynasty, soon after it was excavated.

Seven-spouted lamp

Seven-spouted lamp

This Iron Age II lamp dating to the 9th-8th centuries BCE was found in the temple area and is reminiscent of the early menorah of the tabernacle.

Ox Skull

Ox Skull

This excavated skull was the first evidence of an entire ox that was apparently killed within a domestic courtyard when an earthquake may have caused the collapse of a mudbrick wall sometime in the late 9th or early 8th century BCE.

Sacrificial Bowl

Sacrificial Bowl

This bronze bowl dating to the 8th century BCE was found next to an altar in the temple area and was apparently used to catch the blood of animals that was to be splashed against the altar as a part of Israelite sacrificial rites.

Sacrificial Bowl

This bronze bowl dating to the 8th century BCE was found next to an altar in the temple area and was apparently used to catch the blood of animals that was to be splashed against the altar as a part of Israelite sacrificial rites.