site located on a hill midway between Jerusalem and Bethlehem (31°40′ N, 35°15′ E; map reference 1708 × 1275). Yohanan Aharoni excavated the site for four seasons between 1954 and 1962 under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Israel Department of Antiquities, the Israel Exploration Society (IES), and the University of Rome. In 1984 Gabriel Barkay excavated there for Tel Aviv University and the IES. In 1931 Benjamin Mazar and Moshe Stekelis excavated a burial cave south of the site for the Palestine Exploration Society. Five main strata were identified dating from the Iron Age IIC through the Early Arab period. The ancient name of the site is unknown, although Aharoni suggests that it may be Bethha-Kerem; Barkay rejects this identification.

Stratum VB was founded on bedrock. Though little remains of its architecture, there is some evidence of a casemate wall and a stone quarry. Two seal impressions similar to impressions known from Tel Nagila and Lachish mention “to Shebna [son of] Shahar.” [See Lachish.] One hundred and seventy lmlk stamped handles, of both the two-winged and four-winged varieties, were found in constructional fills used in stratum VA. Private seal impressions were also recovered, some of whose names correspond to seals from Tell en-Naṣbeh, Beth-Shemesh, and Lachish. [See Naṣbeh, Tell en-; Beth-Shemesh.] The lmlk handles found in fills below stratum VA surfaces help date stratum VB to the reign of Hezekiah. The destruction of the site can be attributed presumably to Sennacherib's campaign of 701 BCE.

Ramat Raḥel

RAMAT RAḥEL. Figure 1. Proto-Aeolic capital. (Courtesy ASOR Archives)

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A new citadel, dated to the late seventh–early sixth centuries BCE, was constructed in stratum VA. A double wall system, enclosing 2.5 acres, partially surrounded the citadel. The area between the walls and the citadel was intentionally leveled with extensive fills. Only fragments of the outer wall were excavated and it appears to surround the citadel only partially. The citadel itself is rectangular (56 × 72 m). It consists of the fragments of two buildings along the western and northern sides of its inner casemate wall. The casemates functioned as storerooms. In the center of the eastern wall a paved opening served as a gate and led to a well-plastered courtyard. A second, smaller gate was found to the south of the main gate. A hewn tunnel outside the citadel may originally have been linked to a narrow postern along the north wall. Architectural elements from the citadel include fine ashlar masonry, header-stretcher construction, the remains of ten proto- Aeolic capitals (see figure 1), carved stone crenelation fragments, and carved stone window balustrades. These types of balustrades are identical to those portrayed in Phoenician ivory plaques depicting the “woman in the window” motif. A small quantity of Assyrian Palace ware was found, along with a sherd depicting a seated individual. Originally, this painted sherd was thought to imitate an Assyrian pictoral style. However, Shulamit Geva (1981) has suggested that this sherd better reflects Aegean traditions. Rosette stamp impressions, which may have been used as royal sealings after the seventh century BCE, were also found. A seal impression “to Eliakim, steward of Yochin” is identical to seal impressions from Tell Beit Mirsim and Beth-Shemesh. [See Beit Mirsim, Tell.] The high quality of the ashlar masonry, the types of architectural adornments, and the overall site plan are reminiscent of Samaria and suggest a Phoenician influence [See Samaria; Phoenicians.] The use of these distinctive architectural elements, along with the small finds, supports the contention that Ramat Raḥel was indeed a royal citadel, perhaps during the reign of Jehoiachin.

The Late Persian/Early Hellenistic ceramic assemblage dates stratum IVB to the fourth century BCE. This stratum is poorly preserved, but two hundred and seventy seal impressions were recovered. The wide variety of inscribed seal impressions includes the use of name Jerusalem, Yehud stamps, and private names. The anepigraphous seal assemblage is also rich and diverse. Most of these seals belong to Stern's type A, which depicts lions in various positions (Stern, 1982).

The Herodian remains of stratum IVA are limited to scattered architectural fragments and burial caves on the slopes. Stratum III is dated to the late third century CE, when the site was utilized by the Roman Tenth Legion. The Church of Kathisma and a monastery from stratum II date to the Byzantine period (fifth–late seventh centuries). The last use of the site (stratum I) was in the Early Arab period.


  • Aharoni, Yohanan. “Excavations at Ramat Raḥel, 1954: Preliminary Report.” Israel Exploration Journal 6 (1956): 102–111, 137–157. Report of the first season, complimentary to and in part superseded by the excavation volumes (below).
  • Aharoni, Yohanan. Excavations at Ramat Raḥel. 2 vols. Rome, 1962–1964. Preliminary reports with architectural plans, photographs, and pottery plates. Although not a final report, includes all the archaeological work done by Aharoni.
  • Geva, Shulamit. “The Painted Sherd of Ramat Raḥel.” Israel Exploration Journal 31 (1981): 186–189.
  • Reich, Ronny. “Palaces and Residencies in the Iron Age.” In The Architecture of Ancient Israel: From the Prehistoric to the Persian Periods, edited by Aharon Kempinski and Ronny Reich, pp. 202–222. Jerusalem, 1992. Excellent synthetic article on Iron Age architectural traditions.
  • Shiloh, Yigal. The Proto-Aeolic Capital and Israelite Ashlar Masonry. Qedem, Vol. 11. Jerusalem, 1979. Comprehensive analysis of proto-Aeolic capitals found in Palestine, with important discussions of ashlar masonry and Phoenician influences on Israelite architectural traditions. Though a few new capitals have been found at sites such as Dan, this volume remains the definitive study.
  • Stern, Ephraim. Material Culture of the Land of the Bible in the Persian Period, 538–332 B.C. Warminster, 1982.
  • Stern, Ephraim. “The Phoenician Architectural Elements in Palestine during the Late Iron Age and Persian Period.” In The Architecture of Ancient Israel: From the Prehistoric to the Persian Periods, edited by Aharon Kempinski and Ronny Reich, pp. 302–309. Jerusalem, 1992. Excellent synopsis of Phoenician influences on Israel from the Late Iron Age through the Hellenistic period.
  • Yadin, Yigael. “The ‘House of Ba῾al’ of Ahab and Jezebel in Samaria, and That of Athalia in Judah.” In Archaeology in the Levant: Essays for Kathleen Kenyon, edited by P. R. S. Moorey and Peter J. Parr, pp. 127–135. Warminster, 1978. Important, though dated, critique of Aharoni's work at Ramat Raḥel, questioning his methodology, chronological conclusions, and historical reconstructions.

J. P. Dessel