Arrowhead from biblical battle discovered in Goliath’s hometown

This arrowhead is made out of cattle bone and was found in the remains of an ancient street in the lower city of Gath in what is now Israel. (Image
credit: Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project)

A bone arrowhead found in the ancient Philistine city of Gath may have been fired off by the city’s defenders as part of a last stand described in the Bible.

According to the Hebrew Bible, a king named Hazael), who ruled the kingdom of Aram from around 842 B.C. to 800 B.C., conquered Gath (also known as Tell es-Safi) before marching on Jerusalem. “Hazael king of Aram went up and attacked Gath and captured it. Then he turned to attack Jerusalem,” the Book of Kings says (2 Kings 12:17).

Archaeological excavations at Gath, in what is now Israel, have revealed that massive destruction took place in the late ninth century B.C., the time when the Bible says Hazael conquered Gath, where the Philistines (enemies of the Israelites) lived. The Hebrew Bible describes Gath as the home of Goliath, the giant warrior killed by King David.

Related: Biblical battles: 12 ancient wars lifted from the Bible

In 2019, archaeologists found a bone arrowhead in the remains of a street in the lower city that may have been fired by the city’s defenders in a desperate attempt to stop Hazael’s forces from taking Gath, a team of researchers wrote in a paper published recently in the journal Near Eastern Archaeology.

The arrowhead has an impact fracture on its tip, and the arrowhead “had been broken close to the mid-shaft, perhaps as a result of this impact,” the archaeologists said The damage suggests the arrowhead hit a target, they added.

Desparate manufacturing

This arrowhead may have been produced in a workshop in Gath that was frantically trying to manufacture as many bone arrowheads for the city’s defenders as possible.

The workshop, which was discovered in 2006, is located roughly 980 feet (300 meters) away from where the bone arrowhead was found. Inside this workshop, archaeologists uncovered several bones from the lower forelimbs and hind limbs of domestic cattle, suggesting that people in the workshop were in the process of making bone arrowheads. “The assemblage represents bones at different stages of working — from complete bones, waste, to almost finished products,” the researchers wrote in the article.

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