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History & Archeology

Earliest Gate Ever Made in Israel Uncovered

The ancient gate at Tell Erani. Photos Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority

An ancient 5,500-year-old gate was uncovered in an Israel Antiquities Authority Excavation carried out at Tell Erani, prior to the Mekorot Water Company laying a water pipe near Kiryat Gat * The city gate was part of the fortifications of one of the most important tell sites for understanding the beginning of urbanization

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) recently discovered an ancient gate thought to be the earliest known in the Land of Israel in Tell Erani, near the Kiryat Gat Industrial Zone in the upper Negev. The gate was uncovered during an excavation funded by Mekorot, the national water company of Israel, prior to laying a new water pipe.

During this excavation, the gate and part of a fortification system of the ancient city, dated to the Early Bronze Age, about 3,300 years ago, were found. IAA said that these structures reflect the beginning of urbanization in the Land of Israel and the Southern Levant. The earliest gate that was known until now was the gate at Tel Arad (Arad is also in the Negev) which was dated about 300 years later than this gate.

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The Tel Erani gate, which was preserved to a height of 1.5 meters (5 feet), is comprised of a passageway built of large stones that leads into the ancient city. Two towers made of large stones flank the gate, and between them,z there are rows of mudbricks. This gate is attached to the city walls that were uncovered in previous excavations.

According to Emily Bischoff, Director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is the first time that such a large gate dating to the Early Bronze IB has been uncovered. In order to construct the gate and the fortification walls, stones had to be brought from a distance, mudbricks had to be manufactured and the fortification walls had to be constructed. This was not achieved by one or a few individuals. The fortification system is evidence of a social organization that represents the beginning of urbanization.”

“It is probable that all passers-by, traders or enemies, who wanted to enter the city had to pass through this impressive gate,” says Martin-David Pasternak, Israel Antiquities Authority researcher of this period.

He also explained that the gate not only defended the settlement but also conveyed the message that one was entering an important powerful town that was well-organized politically, socially, and economically. So, the gate served as a warning to any outsiders, possibly even the Egyptians.

At the end of the Early Bronze Age, the Egyptians themselves arrived in the area, settled it and they reused the gate.

Tell Erani was an important early urban center in this area in the Early Bronze period. The tell site was part of a large and important settlement system in the southwestern area of the country in this period. The archeologists said that within this system they can identify the first signs of the urbanization process, including settlement planning, social stratification, and public building.

Several archaeological excavations carried out at Tell Erani since the mid-1950s were directed by the Department of Antiquities, the Israel Antiquities Authority, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and the University of Krakow, Poland. The extensive research carried out at the tell has shown the importance of the questions and issues related to the beginning of urbanization: When did urbanization begin? What is a city? What are the characteristics of a city? Was there an Egyptian conquest or not?

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