Holy Land Archeology with Gila

 

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“SOLOMON ACCUMULATED CHARIOTS AND HORSES;
HE HAD A THOUSAND AND FOUR HUNDRED CHARIOTS AND
TWELVE THOUSAND HORSEMEN, WHICH HE STATIONED IN
THE CHARIOT CITIES AND WITH THE KING IN JERUSALEM"
FIRST KINGS 10:26
 

Holy Sites -- Gila's HighlightsLet's saunter through Solomon's Stables at Megiddo

Wise old king Solomon was a man of contrasts.  He was a man of peace.  (His Hebrew name, Shlomo, even means peace.) Yet Solomon built a formidable war machine which included 40,000 stalls for chariot-horses and 12,000 horsemen. (First Kings 4:26) (There is, however, a discrepancy in the number of stalls built for Solomon’s horses: Second Chronicles 9 gives the figure as only 4,000, rather than 40,000.)
 
Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and Kue, perhaps a region in Turkey.  And Solomon’s neighboring allies would contribute even more horses as annual tribute, in addition to gold and silver, weapons and spices.
 

Map of northern Israel showing the location of Megiddo

Adapted from map on Internet for Learning site

Map of northern Israel showing the location of Megiddo

 
It’s said in First Kings chapter 9, verse 15, that Solomon built the cities of Hatzor, Gezer and Megiddo, probably using the same architects and building engineers. 

Were these the chariot cities referred to in Second Chronicles 9:25 where the horses and chariots were stored?  We think so.

 

Aerial photo of Tel Megiddo taken by balloon in 1931

Courtesy of the Megiddo Expedition

Aerial photo of Tel Megiddo taken by balloon in 1931

 
From 1925 to 1939, Megiddo was excavated by an expedition from the University of Chicago.  The archeologists, using hired labor from a nearby village, discovered tall pillars and trough-like “mangers” which they identified as stables.  Well – if they are stables, then obviously, based upon the Bible, they were built by Solomon, the American excavators concluded.
 

Excavators climbing up Tel Megiddo in the 1930s

Courtesy of the Megiddo Expedition

Local laborers climbing up Tel Megiddo to excavate in the 1930s

 

Northern Iron Age stables, removed in the 1920s

Courtesy of the Megiddo Expedition

Northern Iron Age stables, removed in the 1920s

 

Northern stables at Megiddo in 2009

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Area of the northern stables in 2009

 
When I studied to be a guide in 1977, we learned that there were stables for 450 horses at Megiddo.  Today, after the excavations starting in 1992, it’s believed that there are a lot more.  But it’s no longer certain that they are ‘Solomon’s’ stables.  In fact, the majority of excavators from Tel Aviv University believe that the stables are either ninth or eighth century BC, dated to the Israelite Kingdom ruled by Ahab or King Jeroboam the second.
 

Manger in the stables at Megiddo

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

A trough or "manger" found in the stables at Megiddo

 
Last October I attended a full day seminar for guides at Megiddo with archeologist
Dr. Norma Franklin who shared discoveries, controversies, gossip and anecdotes of her 18 seasons of excavation on the site.  The first thing she told us is that she dates what we call the “Solomonic gates” to two hundred years later, to the 8th century BC, to the time of Jeroboam the second. 
 
Dr. Norma Franklin holding a mud-brick from the Solomonic period Dr. Franklin doesn’t believe that the stables of Solomon’s day have been found (yet!).  However she picked up and showed us a mud-brick from the time of Solomon, 10th century BC.  (left photo)

The most thrilling part of the seminar was when Dr. Franklin shared some new research with us about horses and stables. It was roughly the time of the patriarchs, about 1700 BC, when the Hyksos brought the first horses from Asia Minor to Egypt. The Egyptians immediately learned to manipulate the horses and brought them to Nubia for breeding.  Nubia is located in the south of Egypt along the Nile River and in northern Sudan.

The Egyptians attached the horses to chariots and used them in both war and peace.  The original chariot was a fast, light, open, two or four-wheeled carriage

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

drawn by two or more horses hitched
Dr. Franklin with a Solomonic mud-brick side by side.
 
A thousand years later, by 750 BC, the Nubians had become famous horse-breeders. Many foreign kings, particularly from Assyria and Babylon, wanted Nubian horses and their grooms.  One of the better known Nubian kings, Piankhy had several walls of his temple decorated with painted processions of horses he had received as gifts from the rulers of Egypt.  He even had his favorite horses buried with him so they could accompany the king to the afterlife.  Many Nubian royal tombs have horses buried in them or beside them!
 
So what is the connection with Megiddo?
 
Apparently the northern kingdom of Israel was an important link in the chariot-horse trade.  In the Israelite chariot cities, the horses were trained in tandem for racing. Chariot horses need to live cheek to jowl, right next to each other.  This is in fact counter-intuitive for a horse, which naturally prefers an open area and lots of space.
 
According to Dr. Franklin, the dimensions of the stables at Megiddo are a perfect match for training the relatively large Nubian horses to adjust to the claustrophobic conditions of chariot driving.  If a horse was trained for chariot racing, then the sale value of that horse would increase ten-fold, for example, from $100 to $1,000 per horse.
 

Nubian horses photographed around 1855

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Nubian horses photographed by Roger Fenton around 1855

 
In a presentation called “A Kingdom for a Horse,” Megiddo excavation director Professor Israel Finkelstein proposed that Megiddo was a center for one of the most lucrative “cash-crop” industries of the Northern Kingdom.  In the 8th century BC (contemporary to the time of the Prophet Isaiah), Israel was the intermediary between the famed Nubian horse industry from Egypt and the Assyrian imperialist superpower in Mesopotamia.  Megiddo became the major center for breeding and training these horses.
 
Extensive stables in the northern part of Tel Megiddo were removed by the University of Chicago excavators in the 1920s.  But as we tour Megiddo, we will walk through the southern stables.
 

Southern stables excavated by Tel Aviv University

Courtesy of the Megiddo Expedition

Southern stables (Area L) excavated by the Tel Aviv University expedition

 
Archeologists recently took samples of dirt from this area (Area L) and sent them to the laboratory to test for traces of horse urine which has a specific PH.  The samples came back positive.  Then, just to compare, they took dirt from other parts of the tel where there were no stables and they came back with traces of horse urine as well!

Conclusion: Megiddo’s foremost mission in the Israelite period was to train horses for battle.

 
And what about Solomon’s stables?  According to the present excavators, stables from the tenth century BC have not yet been found.  But, as Dr. Franklin puts it, “An absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence!”
 
And as for Solomon’s dad’s perspective on horses and chariots, let’s look at Psalm 20, verse 7.  “Some take pride in a chariot, and others in horses, but we take pride in the name of the Lord our God!
 

Megiddo chariot

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Megiddo Chariot!

 
On your next trip to Israel, come with me to Megiddo, a rich site where we can discuss horses and chariots, Solomon and Josiah, the Canaanites and the Israelites, and of course the Battle of Armageddon!
 

Copyright 2009 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

 

Valley of Armageddon below Tel Megiddo

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

The Valley of Armageddon lies below Tel Megiddo

 
Gila Yudkin is a Connecticut-born Yankee living in King David’s Court.  She loves sharing new research which provides insight into biblical passages.  On tour, Gila mixes fun, fantasy and facts with passion for archeology and Bible.  She recently received an email from a subscriber to Holy Sites – Gila’s Highlights saying, “We toured with you in 1998.  It's #1 on my list of favorite things I have ever done.”
 

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Walk with David and Solomon -- and Gila -- along Solomon's Porticoes and learn about Solomon's Stables (in Jerusalem) during a one-hour MP3 audio tour of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Now Gila's Temple Mount tour is also available in PDF format with a plan of the Temple Mount, guidelines for passing the security check and the ten best reads on the Temple Mount from Gila's bookshelves.

 
More on Solomon's Cities
 
Let's explore Solomon's digs in Jerusalem

Let's visit Gezer, Solomon's wedding gift

Let's look for the clay tablet treasure at Hazor

Jerusalem / Solomon's digs

Gezer

Hazor

 


GILA YUDKIN TCHERNIKOVSKI 64A JERUSALEM ISRAEL
gila@itsgila.com

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