Tel Dan ("Mound of Dan" תל דן in Hebrew), also known as Tel el-Qadi (Mound of the Judge in Arabic, تل القاضي, literal translation of the Hebrew name Tel Dan, "Dan" being "judge", or "judging one"), is an archaeological site in Israel in the upper Galilee next to the Golan Heights. The site is quite securely identified with the Biblical city of Dan, the northernmost city in the Kingdom of Israel, which the Book of Judges states was known as Laish prior to its conquest by the Tribe of Dan. Due to its location close to the border with Lebanon and at the far north of the territory which fell under the Palestine (mandate)|British Mandate of Palestine, Tel Dan has had a long and often bitterly contested modern history, most recently during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Finds at the site date back to the Neolithic era c 4500 BCE; from the remains found, which include 0.8 m wide walls, and pottery shards, it appears that the site was occupied in Neolithic times for several centuries before being abandoned for up to about 1000 years.
Within the remains of the city wall, close to the entrance of the outer gate, was found a fragment which seemingly was originally from a stele. This basalt fragment, the Tel Dan Stele, contains an Aramaic inscription, referring to one of the Aramaean kings of Damascus; most scholars believe that the king it refers to is Hazael (c 840 BCE), though a minority argue that it instead refers to Ben-Hadad (c 802 BCE). Very little of the inscription remains, but the text contains the letters 'ביתדוד' (BYTDWD) which some archaeologists agree refers to House of David (Beth David in Hebrew. In the line directly above, the text reads 'MLK YSR'L', i.e. "King of Israel". Hebrew script from the era is vowel-less), which would make the inscription if read correctly and genuine the first time that the name David has been found in any archaeological site dating before 500 BCE.
In 1992, in order to tidy up the site for presentation to visitors, a heap of debris was removed which dated from the time of the Assyrian destruction of the city by Tiglath-pileser III in 733/2 BCE. Unexpectedly, a hitherto unknown earlier gateway to the city was uncovered. The entrance complex led to a courtyard paved with stone where there stood a low stone platform. This has been identified by some biblical literalists as the podium for the golden calf which the Bible states was placed there by Jeroboam.
The excavators of Tel Dan uncovered a city gate made of mud bricks estimated to have been built around 1750 B.C.E, presumed to be the period of the Biblical patriarchs. Its popular name is Abraham's gate, because Abraham traveled to Dan to rescue his nephew Lot. Genesis 14:14: "And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan." The gate has become a popular tourist attraction. The gate was restored in the late 2000s.
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- Tel Dan inscription
- Picture of Tel Dan inscription, at Univ of Texas, course at University of Texas course
- Stele in context
- Israel Nature & Natural Parks Protection Authority Site
- Photos of Tel Dan