Excavators at Beer-Sheva and Megiddo have proposed two conflicting theories regarding the function of nearly identical public buildings at their two sites.

At top is a drawing of a pillared building at Beer-Sheva as reconstructed in its most probable form by the excavators. The raised, or clerestory, roof, would have allowed light and air into both the side rooms and the central hall.

Note that the floor of the side rooms differs from the floor of the central hall; the side rooms of pillared buildings were typically paved with unhewn stones or stone cobbling while the central hall was unpaved. Though this building had entrances leading to both the central hall and to the side rooms, most pillared buildings had entrances leading only to the central hall.

The excavators recovered vast amounts of pottery from the side rooms of this and two other pillared buildings at Beer-Sheva—including 136 intact vessels from a single room—leading them to conclude that the buildings had been storehouses.

A very different picture emerged for the team that excavated Megiddo. Nestled between pillars at center in the aerial photo above are two scooped-out blocks thought to have been mangers to contain animal feed (see also the closeup, below, of two pillars and a manger-like block of carved-out stone from Megiddo now on display at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem). The pillars and mangers state the case for the tripartite buildings having been stables. The holes near the top of the pillars could have served as tethering holes for animals, while the manger would have held feed.

Megiddo had the most extensive series of tripartite buildings yet discovered—a group of five (see artist’s rendition, below) and a second group of twelve. The photo below the artist’s rendition, also of Megiddo, conveys the tripartite nature of the pillared buildings. With several buildings sharing common interior walls, the raised clerestory roof becomes even more essential to bring light and ventilation into the halls below.

Like their counterparts at other sites, the pillared buildings at Megiddo were in the public sectors of the city and were approached by a gently inclined ramp rather than by steps.

The argument for stables has several strikes against it, as author Currid points out. Stables would not have been located, as the tripartite buildings were, well within the public sector of ancient cities. Also, chemical analysis of the earth underneath one such building failed to yield heightened levels of phosphoric anhydride, which would have indicated the presence of horse urine. In fact, no horse- or chariot-related items have been recovered from any of the pillared buildings. The horse theory, Currid argues, does not have a leg to stand on. He opts instead, as do Beer-Sheva’s excavators, for the theory that the buildings were storehouses for grain and explains the tethering holes and mangers as having been present in a few pillared buildings for use while pack animals waited to be loaded or unloaded.