Biblical Archaeology Review 7:5, September/October 1981

The Remarkable Discoveries at Tel Dan

By John C. H. Laughlin

In the summer of 1979 an astounding structure was uncovered at Tel Dan in northern Israel. Excavators from the Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion expedition found a huge mudbrick gateway consisting of two towers joined by a completely intact mudbrick arch. The complex is dated to the Middle Bronze II A-B period, about 1900–1700 B.C. The exact date is not yet known but it is probably earlier than 1700 B.C.

That the mudbrick towers were preserved to a height of almost 20 feet (very nearly their original height) was amazing enough. That the three courses of the mudbrick arch connecting these towers survived complete and undamaged after 3,800 years seemed almost miraculous.

This is the only existing structure of its kind in the entire Near East. Remains of Middle Bronze gates have been found at Hazor, Megiddo, Shechem, Gezer and even Troy—but none of them is preserved intact. To find an entire mudbrick structure as old as the gate at Dan in this unbelievable state of preservation is hardly dreamed of by archaeologists.

The arched mudbrick gateway, built more than 700 years before the tribe of Dan captured the city, was preserved only because—for reasons not yet completely clear—it was buried. Whether the arched gateway can be preserved now that it is exposed to the air and the weather is a troubling question.

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