3-acre mound at Kibbutz Lahav in southern Israel, on the southwestern flank of the Judean hills, 8 km (5 mi.) south of Tell Beit Mirsim, 15 km (9 mi.) north of Tel Beersheba, and 25 km (15 mi.) west of Tel Arad (31°23′ N, 34°52′ E; map reference 1373 × 0879). The site's prominent geomorphological location, at the juncture between the coastal plain, Judean mountains, and Negev desert, commands the route from the seacoast north of the Beersheba drainage east into the Judean hills.
Based on the proximity of Tel Ḥalif to its satellite site, Ḥorvat Rimmon (Ar., Khirbet Umm er-Rammamin), less than 1 km south of it, Félix-Marie Abel, in his 1938 geographical survey, identified Tel Ḥalif with biblical Ziklag, the city that the Philistine overlord Achish ceded to King David (1 Sm. 27:6 ff.). In the nineteenth century, Claude R. Conder and H. H. Kitchener identified Ḥorvat Rimmon as the Iron Age Rimmon mentioned in the territorial lists of Judah in Joshua 15:32 and 19:7. Accepting this hypothesis, Abel also identified Ḥalif with Tilla, a Byzantine-period settlement that Eusebius, in his Onomasticon (99.26), had located near Rimmon, 26 km (16 mi.) south of Beit Jibrin. More recently, noting the absence of Iron Age remains at Ḥorvat Rimmon, Amos Kloner (1980) argued that Ḥalif itself was biblical Rimmon, suggesting that its Byzantine-period satellite later co-opted its name. Nadav Na'aman (1980) has also suggested that Tel Ḥalif is biblical Ḥormah. [See the biographies of Abel, Conder, and Kitchener.]
Archaeological exploration at Tel Ḥalif began in the 1950s, following the establishment of Kibbutz Lahav on its eastern slopes. The first formal investigations were intermittent salvage operations conducted by the Israel Department of Antiquities. These included investigations of tombs of the Roman/Byzantine settlement at site 66 below the tell on the northwest in 1962 (Gophna and Sussman, 1974) and of the Iron Age at site 72 on the slopes facing the tell to the south in 1964 and 1972 (Biran and Gophna, 1964; Seger, 1972.)
The Lahav Research Project launched an integrated study of Tel Ḥalif and its environs in 1976 that included excavation, regional survey, and ethnographic study. The project was carried out by a consortium of American scholars and institutions under the direction of Joe D. Seger. Field research seasons were conducted in 1976, 1977, 1979, and 1980 (phase I); 1983, 1986, 1987, and 1989 (phase II); and in 1992–1993 (phase III.) These explorations recovered evidence of ancient settlement on the tell itself, on its lower eastern terrace, and at a number of satellite sites. Traces of occupation from the Chalcolithic period (c. 3500 BCE) through the late Byzantine and Islamic periods were found, along with remains of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century CE Arab dwellers.
The first settlers at the site utilized the lower terrace area just above the valley to the east. Excavations at terrace sites 101 and 301 produced evidence of Chalcolithic (stratum XVII) and Early Bronze I (stratum XVI) occupation; they revealed that Ḥalif steadily developed as a significant village site between 3500 and 2900 BCE. Ḥalif's architecture and small finds from the end of the EB I indicate that it was a regional center in commercial contact with early dynastic Egypt.
Ḥalif was not occupied until the end of EB II. Nearby Arad flourished in the EB II, but when it declined at the end of the period, the main tell at Ḥalif underwent vigorous new settlement. In field I, on the eastern slopes, the EB III settlement is marked by four substantial architectural phases (strata XV–XII). The stratum XV city was defended by large fortification walls. Its defenses included a 7.5-meter-wide tower fronted by a well-prepared crushed limestone glacis. The final stratum XII EB settlement was destroyed in the twenty-fourth century BCE, possibly in the course of late fifth-and sixth-dynasty Egyptian forays in the area.
After the eclipse of the stratum XII city, Ḥalif lay unoccupied until just before 1500 BCE. The stratum XI resettlement, in the late Bronze IA period follows closely on the mid-sixteenth-century destruction of city D at nearby Tell Beit Mirsim. In field I at Ḥalif, four LB phases were identified (strata XI–VIII). In strata X and IX, during LB IB and IIA, the presence of a large Egyptian style “residency” building and its associated remains indicates that the settlement was a trading station along the route into the southern Judean hills.
With stratum VIII (LB IIB) all of the field I architecture was converted into a storage complex with numerous stone-lined bins. Elements of an adjacent domestic building in area B10, with three subphases of room resurfacing, testify to the intensity of this thirteenth-century occupation. Stratum VIII ends in destruction in about 1200 BCE.
Modest occupation continues into the Iron I period (stratum VII), as indicated by several later surfacing phases in the area B10 structure in field I, along with evidence from probes in fields II and III. However, significant rebuilding begins again only during stratum VI in the Iron II period. This was a period of extensive growth and expansion at Ḥalif, presumably under the aegis of the Judean monarchy. Traces of the Iron II settlement were found virtually everywhere at and around the site. These included the extensive site 72 cemetery on the slopes of the hill southwest of the tell.
On the summit of the tell, large-scale architectural exposures from the Iron II period were made in fields II, III, and IV. The first major Iron II redevelopment (stratum VIB) took place in the early ninth century BCE. Investigation in fields III and IV indicated that they included casematelike fortification walls associated with intramural domestic buildings and an outlying flagstone paved glacis. The stratum VIB city experienced massive destruction at the end of the eighth century BCE, probably by Sennacherib in his campaign in 701. A subsequent squatter phase of reoccupation (stratum VIA) represents a brief resettlement during the first quarter of the seventh century BCE. After this, occupation ceases until the Persian era.
In stratum V, reoccupation by a regional Persian administration is indicated by pits and surface deposits all across the tell. Significant architecture was encountered only in field II, where elements of a large building (the foundations of its walls are a meter wide) and related artifacts suggest that it was a barrack or other military structure.
Above the Persian remains two subphases of another large building were found. These date to the Hellenistic period (stratum IV). Initial construction is dated to the mid-fourth century BCE. A second-century Ptolemaic coin sealed in a grave beneath final-phase floors shows continuity of settlement until at least about 200 BCE. An occupational hiatus in the Early Roman period followed.
With the flight of Jews and Christians from Jerusalem during the first- and second-century CE wars with Rome, the site recovered dramatically, however. A substantial Roman/Byzantine village (Tilla) was established on the tell and on the terrace below its northeast slopes (stratum III.) This included the cemetery at site 66 below the tell to the northwest. Tilla is part of an intensive regional pattern of Roman/Byzantine resettlement that includes significant satellite villages at Ḥorvat Rimmon to the south, Khirbet Za῾aq to the north, and Khirbet Abu Hof to the southwest.
Traces of later occupation representing the early Islamic (stratum II) and modern Arabic periods (stratum I) are found mainly on the lower terrace areas. Excavated remains in cave complex A, just below field I, indicate an early Islamic presence from Mamluk times (c. 700 CE) until well into the period of the Crusades. The more prominent remains, however, belong to the late nineteenth- and twentieth-century settlement of Khirbet Khuweilifeh. Excavations and ethnographic research indicate that until about 1940, cave complexes and other structures in the Khuweilifeh village were used seasonally by Arab fellahin—sharecroppers, shepherds, craftsmen, and traders—working as clients of bedouin who claimed ownership of the region.
- Abel, Félix-Marie. Géographie de la Palestine. Vol. 2. Paris, 1938.
- Biran, Avraham, and Ram Gophna. “An Iron Age Burial Cave at Tel Halif.” Israel Exploration Journal 20 (1970): 151–169.
- Borowski, Oded. “The Biblical Identity of Tel Halif.” Biblical Archaeologist 51.1 (1988): 21–27.
- Gophna, Ram, and Varda Sussman. “A Jewish Burial Cave of the Roman Period at the Foot of Tel Halif” (in Hebrew). Atiqot 7 (1974): 11–12.
- Jacobs, P. “Tell Halif: Prosperity in a Late Bronze Age City on the Edge of the Negev.” In Archaeology and Biblical Interpretation: Essays in Memory of D. Glenn Rose, edited by Leo G. Perdue et al., 67–86. Atlanta, 1987.
- Kloner, Amos. “Hurvat Rimmon, 1979.” Israel Exploration Journal 30 (1980): 226–228.
- Na'aman, Nadav. “The Inheritance of the Sons of Simeon.” Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 96 (1980): 136–152.
- Seger, Joe D. “Tell Halif (Lahav).” Israel Exploration Journal 22 (1972): 161.
- Seger, Joe D., and Oded Borowski. “The First Two Seasons at Tell Halif.” Biblical Archaeologist 40 (1977): 156–166.
- Seger, Joe D. “Investigations at Tell Halif, Israel, 1976–1980.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 252 (1983): 1–23.
- Seger, Joe D. “The Location of Biblical Ziklag.” Biblical Archaeologist 47.1 (1984): 47–53.
- Seger, Joe D., et al. “The Bronze Age Settlements at Tell Halif: Phase II Excavations, 1983–1987.” In Preliminary Reports of ASOR-Sponsored Excavations, 1983–87, edited by Walter E. Rast, 1–32. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, Supplement no. 26. Baltimore, 1990.
Joe D. Seger