Biblical Archaeology Review 9:5, September/October 1983

A Visit with Ahilud

A revealing look at village life when Israel first settled the Promised Land

By Joseph A. Callaway

I first learned of Ahilud in 1969. I had been director of excavations at the ancient site of Ai, the second city taken by the Israelites when they entered Canaan, according to the book of Joshua (Joshua 7–8). I had been working at Ai since 1964, and our field work was nearly finished. We had uncovered a large fortified city of over 27 acres that had existed from about 3000 B.C. to about 2400 B.C. (the Early Bronze Age). Then the site was abandoned for about 1,200 years until about 1220 B.C. At that time, the first Israelites built a small 2.75-acre village on the site, which lasted until about 1050 B.C. (the Iron Age I period). Then the site was abandoned for good.

Actually, Ahilud did not live at Ai. His neighbors and perhaps some of his relatives did. Ahilud himself lived at Khirbet Raddana, a site about four miles west of Ai. Raddana too was an ancient site. We had been asked to do some emergency or so-called salvage excavations at Raddana before the encroachments of modern civilization destroyed or covered the ancient remains. Despite our limited resources, we jumped at the chance because even from the surface we could tell that Raddana had been an Israelite village at the same time as Ai. Comparisons would be invaluable.

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