Shlomo Bunimovitz

The strong wall. Mackenzie identified this stepped wall, built of massive rough boulders, as the work of a megalithic people who taught the art of fortifications to the Semites. According to Mackenzie, the wall protected the earliest cities at Beth-Shemesh but went out of use in the tenth century B.C.E; after that, he claimed, no wall protected the city. George Ernest Wright, who analyzed and published the results of Elihu Grant’s excavations in the 1930s, concurred that the Israelite city had no fortifications after the days of Solomon.

Renewed excavations, however, reveal that the stepped wall was actually part of a bastion that stood before a large fortress built as late as 1000 B.C.E., when the city became a royal administrative center under King Solomon. The wall protected the Israelite stronghold until its destruction in 701 B.C.E. by Sennacherib, who later boasted in a cuneiform inscription that he had “laid siege to 46 of [King Hezekiah’s] strong cities, walled forts … and conquered them.”

The opening at upper left in the photo is not a relic of ancient stonemasons but of Mackenzie, who dug a narrow tunnel almost all the way around the tell to explore the face of his “Strong Wall.” Popular among British archaeologists in Palestine at the beginning of this century, this method of underground archaeology leaves the architectural remains virtually unexposed.