BAR 14:05, Sep/Oct 1988
Why Did the Early Israelites Dig All Those Pits?
At almost every Iron Age I (12001000 B.C.) site where the early Israelites settled, archaeologists have found an extraordinary number of pits.
In Biblical terms, Iron Age I is the period of the Judges, when, as the Bible tells us, every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). King David came to the throne at the beginning of the next archaeological period (Iron Age II), in about 1000 B.C.
So numerous are these pits that at some sites they are considered the most characteristic element of Iron Age I occupation. At Tell Ta-annek, for example, the American archaeologist Paul Lapp reported 17 pits in a single area.1 At Hazor, Yigael Yadin reported three principal architectural elements in the Iron I stratum: (1) ovens, (2) foundations for huts or tents and (3) pits. Of the three structures, the pits appear to constitute the primary building activity at Hazor during this period. The excavated areas were literally strewn with these pits, Yadin tells us.2 A similar situation was found at Shechem3 and at other sites.4