Zayit, Tel

By Ron E. Tappy


Tel Zayit (Khirbet Zeitah el-Kharab) lies in the strategic Beth Guvrin Valley of the Shephelah, approximately 30 km east of Ashkelon and 7 km north–northwest of Lachish, near Tel Burna (Tell Bornaṭ). The site is 7.5 a. in size and rises steeply from the surrounding terrain. The summit reaches 176 m above sea level, while the lowest survey measurement taken in the Guvrin streambed is at 150.73 m. Some 17–20 m of the mound’s depth is comprised of stratified cultural remains spanning at least 3,500 years. The slopes of the mound descend gradually toward the north and west, but remain quite steep on the south and east. Naḥal Guvrin, along with its tributaries, drains the area immediately east of the mound before passing across its north side, and provided at least a seasonal water supply for the ancient occupants of the site. The water table in the area of the wadi rises close to the surface, and artesian wells dug near the stream gave more recent settlers adequate access to drinking water. Tel Zayit’s strategic location near the border between Judah and Philistia is a focus of current research. As earlier regional survey data have shown, at least three principal north–south and three east–west roadways through the lowlands of Judah intersected near this site during various phases of the Iron Age.

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