Nearly identical in size and plan, the fortresses of Horvat Mesora, Atar Haro‘a, and Horvat Ritma were built within a few miles of each other in Israel’s central Negev desert. Each is about 66 feet long on a side and features eight or nine casemate rooms around a central courtyard. In an earlier BAR article, Rudolph Cohen dated these fortresses to the reign of King Solomon, in the tenth century B.C. Now he dates them to the Persian period (sixth to fourth centuries B.C.).

Cohen initially dated the square fortress of Horvat Mesora, left, to the tenth century because a nearby structure dated to the tenth century. The few pieces of Persian period pottery found in the square fortress were attributed to a later reuse. Cohen’s subsequent excavation in 1985 turned up more Persian period pottery in the square fortress at Horvat Mesora and also demonstrated that there was only one period of occupation, so that must have been in the Persian period.

Based on this new dating of the square fortress at Horvat Mesora, Cohen has redated the other two nearly identical square fortresses, at Ritma and opposite Atar Haro’a, to the Persian period. In addition, at the Haro’a fortress, Cohen’s 1985 excavation uncovered Persian period evidence similar to that found at Horvat Mesora, thereby substantiating his redating to the Persian period.