Among the seven wives of King David, little is known about Maachah, who was the daughter of the Geshur king, King Talmai, and the mother of David’s son Absalom.
But an ancient fort recently discovered in Israel is revealing new information about this Biblical account.
It’s being called a “national treasure” in Israel, but you likely won’t hear about it in the secular media.
During excavations for the construction of a new neighborhood, workers discovered a unique fort that included rock etchings of two figures holding their arms aloft in prayer and what appears to be a moon.
The fort is believed to be from the 11th – 9th century BCE, and may be the earliest fortified settlement in the Golan Heights.
Dig co-director Barak Tzin discusses the discovery in a video and says the etching was found near the entrance of a small fort made of large basalt boulders with walls about 1.5 meters in width.
It’s believed that the fort was built on a hilltop and served as a strategic look-out over a river crossing above the El-Al River canyon.
Next to the etching was a stone table or shelf, which archaeologists believe was an altar. Upon the altar was a ritual object of a small figure holding what appears to be a drum.
“We understood that we had something very, very important,” Tzin said in the video.
Avishav Tal, a volunteer who lives in the area, also found a ring and bead at the site.
“I realized we are not the first here and that people lived here a long time before we come,” he says in the video.
Ron Be’eri, scientific adviser of the Israel Antiquities Authority, told The Times of Israel that the fort is evidence of the conflict surrounding the fall of the northern Hittite empire in 1180 BCE.
Though little is known about the history of this era, the Geshurites – a group of Arameans whose capital city was in modern-day Bethsaida – were among the people fighting for a foothold in the region after aligning with King David through the marriage of the Geshurite king’s daughter, Maachah.
Be’eri said his dating of the site to the 11th-9th century is based on physical evidence from pottery shards that point to the early Iron Age and are comparable to other pottery found at Israelite sites dating to the 11th-10th centuries BCE.
While Israelite artifacts of the era are plentiful, Be’eri said there are few remains left by the Aramean people and little evidence of the Geshurites except for brief mentions in the Hebrew Bible.
Geshur is mentioned in the Bible as a place of refuge for David’s son, Absalom, after the murder of his half-brother, Amnon.
In 2 Samuel 15:8, Absalom says to his father: “For I vowed a vow while residing in Geshur, which is in Aram, saying, ‘If the Lord will bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will worship the Lord.’”
Other Geshurite cities have been found along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, but this would be a rare find in the area of Golan.
The Tel Dan Stele, the lone evidence for the historical veracity of King David, was discovered near another Aramean settlement in northern Israel. It is believed to have been written after 870 BCE.
Be’eri believes the new fort, which he calls “Nov-Haspin” after two adjacent settlements, was built even earlier.
“This is my impression, but we are very early in the research and have no clear conclusions yet,” he said.
He calls the site a “national treasure” and says the IAA and the local Housing and Construction Ministry are protecting the site and planning an open-air archaeology exhibit that can be viewed by visitors.
“This site is a national treasure and the IAA is going to do everything it can to make sure it is [protected],” he said.
Israeli students who visited the site with the IAA were excited about the find.
“It’s pretty exciting because you just come here and suddenly you understand that someone lived here a few thousand years ago,” said student Elimelech Anglemair.
“Pretty cool stone that they drew on it what they believe in. Two people, both of them with horns.”
The IAA’s Hagar Ben-Dov said it’s important for the historical organization to connect area residents to the history of the region.
“The students are very excited to hear that here in this place we found buildings from the period that they learn about in school. [About] King David [and] about his son Absalom, about the Iron Age,” she said.
“And when they see it here on the earth, they feel the connection between the story and the reality.”