Biblical Archaeology Review 33:4, July/August 2007

Lost Tombs of the Israelite Kings

Century-old Excavation Report Yields Startling New Discovery

By Norma Franklin

This is the story of an excavation in Massachusetts—actually in Cambridge—more specifically, in the basement of the Harvard Semitic Museum. I was trying to understand the buildings in an ancient capital of Israel. I ended up finding what may be the tombs of the kings.

According to the Biblical narrative, the United Kingdom of Israel split in two in the late tenth century B.C.E., after the reigns of David and Solomon. Judah continued to be ruled by the Davidic line with its capital in Jerusalem. The northern kingdom, however, now called Israel, had to establish a new capital.

The Bible then recounts that Jeroboam I, the leader of the breakaway Israelites in the north, established his first governmental center at Shechem but soon moved it to Penuel, a town in Gilead. Eventually, he settled on a capital at Tirzah (Tel el-Farah north).

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