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Archaeological Discovery Sheds Light on the Mystery of Shiloh

An uncovered broken clay pitcher embedded in a layer of reddish ashes completes the story of the devastation of Shiloh.
Tel Shiloh

Tel Shiloh
Photo Credit: Tazpit News Agency

Recent archaeological findings in Samaria shed light on the incomplete story of the destruction of Shiloh, the ancient capital of Israel.

An uncovered broken clay pitcher embedded in a layer of reddish ashes completes the story of the devastation of Shiloh, where the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, was placed during the period of the Judges, and essentially served as Israel’s capital during the early part of the First Israelite commonwealth.

Shiloh served as the spiritual center of Israel for 369 years until its destruction. The Bible does not inform us of the story of its ruin, but these archaeological discoveries shed light on the capital’s tragic demise.

The book of Samuel tells us of a battle between the Philistines and the Israelites, during which the Philistines prevailed, and during which the Holy Ark was captured by them. After hearing the news of the defeat from a messenger, Eli the High Priest, the leader of his time, who lost his two sons in the battle, fell back and died. This is all we learn of the defeat from the Book of Samuel.

We know that Shiloh was destroyed shortly thereafter. We know from the book of Jeremiah that Shiloh was destroyed by the Philistines. These new archaeological findings tell us of how it happened. After the battle, which took place at Even Ha’ezel, near modern day Rosh Ha’ayin, the Philistines moved on to destroy Shiloh, the capital. The ashes found attest to a devastating fire the occurred at the site. The dating of the clay pitcher, 1,050 BCE, correlates with the dating of the events depicted in Book of Samuel.

Avital Selah, director of the Tel Shiloh site, told Tazpit News Agency that these findings were discovered during a massive dig of the Tel Shiloh site, in which some 1000 youth volunteers from across Israel participated. Similar findings were discovered thirty years ago, including food leftovers, and their dating is also set at 1,050 BCE, but the recently discovered layer of ashes completes the story regarding the story of the destruction of the ancient Israelite capital of Shiloh.

About the Author: Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.


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