Biblical King David's palace found after 3,000-year quest

Archaeologists in Israel have solved a 3,000 year-old mystery – uncovering the palace of King David, the ruler famed for defeating Goliath

Archaeologists in Israel have solved a 3,000 year-old mystery – uncovering the palace of King David, the ruler most famous for defeating the Philistine champion Goliath as a young man.

Heralded in the Bible as an ancestor of Jesus Christ, David was famously depicted by Italian sculptor Michelangelo.

Now archaeologists believe that they have unearthed the remains of his palace in southern Israel, alongside a large royal tax office. The discovery points to a vast, luxurious residence with evidence of metal-working as well as pottery and alabaster craftsmanship within the palace bounds.

It had been previously thought that David ruled from Jerusalem, but the excavation of the site – known as Khirbet Qeifaya – suggests a centre of influence closer to the Mediterranean, collecting taxes from across Israel.

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The palace is believed to have been destroyed in battle at around 980BC. David’s rule was largely spent in bloody conflict with the Philistines, who occupied a number of cities including Gaza.

The dig at Khirbet Qeiyafa, in a region known as the Judean Shephelah took place over the past seven years. It was jointly carried out by the Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority, and sheds new light on an important chapter in biblical history.

Remnants of a 1000 square metre palace have been discovered, as well as a storeroom measuring 15m by 6m, containing jars that would have been used for storing taxes – received in the form of agricultural produce.

The remains have been dated to match the rule of King David, and can be identified as belonging to the biblical city of Shaarayim. The name means ‘two gates’; a distinctive feature at a time when most cities only had one. David was the second King of the United Kingdom of Israel, and is commonly held to have lived from 1040 to 970BC.

Professor Yossi Garfinkel, from the Hebrew University, and Sa’ar Ganor from the Antiquities Authority, described it as ‘the best example to date of a fortified city from the time of King David’.

The buildings discovered at Khirbet Qeifaya are the largest ever found from this period, and the palace’s dominant situation with views stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to Jerusalem reinforces its importance – lines of sight would have been essential for communicating with fire signals.

Earlier finds had suggested that David ruled from a palace in the City of David area of Jerusalem, but the discovery of a palace and evidence of organised tax collection in the Judean Shephelah are ‘unequivocal evidence of a kingdom…which knew to establish administrative centres at strategic points’, according to Garfinkel and Ganor. 

As a result of the size and importance of the discoveries, the Israeli government has cancelled a proposed construction project nearby, choosing instead to promote the area as a site of historical importance and designating it as a national park.