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Lachish – a lost city

January 25, 2021

Strategically situated on the main route from Egypt, Lachish was a thriving city in biblical times. Initial habitation of the site can be traced back 5000 years, to the Neolithic pottery era, continuing to develop through the early Bronze Age, and becoming a major Canaanite city in the mid-Bronze age, with a surrounding wall and with several temples, although it was completely destroyed by fire in 1350 BCE.

It was slowly rebuilt, becoming a principle city under Egyptian rule, as is testified in the Amarna letters dating to this period which were found in Egypt.  By the 11th century BC, the Pharaohs were losing control of the region, and the city was finally destroyed again by fire when the Israelites invaded, led by Joshua, after which the site remained abandoned for over 200 years.

Lachish was rebuilt into a major city of the Kingdom of Judah, protecting the country from invasion by the sea peoples (the Phillistines). As one of the fortified cities guarding the valleys and roads to Jerusalem, it had a massive wall a moat, with a royal palace erected on a plateau inside.

Lachish was invaded and destroyed by Sennacherib, during the revolt of King Hezekaya, who resisted falling under Assyrian rule, and remnants of the siege ramp built by the Assyrians to breach the city were found on site, embedded with thousands of arrows and a chain from one of the battering rams. This siege ramp is the oldest in the world, dating back to 2700 BC, having been constructed 700 years before the Roman siege ramp at Masada, is the only surviving remnant from the Assyrian conquests throughout its empire.

With the decline of the Assyrian Empire, the city was rebuilt, only to fall into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, who exiled the inhabitants to Babylon as part of the captivity and erecting a solar shrine in the city. Some returning inhabitants, following the fall of Babylon, rebuilt the city which was once again invaded and destroyed by Alexander the Great, never to be rebuilt.

Excavations that have taken place on the site, initially by the British from 1932-1939, led by archeologists Starkey and Tufnell, who were the first to establish the mound as the site of the city and to uncover several layers of its history. Among others, he discovered the Lachish letters, written in ancient Hebrew written to the garrison commander before the city fell to the Babylonians. A later dig by the Israelis led by David Ussishkin in 1974 and 1983, uncovered evidence of the Judean kingdom city, including a well 44 meters deep, which supplied water to the city.

The site is currently being restored and prepared for touring by the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority.

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