Tel Lachish is an archaeological site that covers some 124 dunams and lies near Moshav Lachish in the Shephelah region. The Arabic name of the site is Tell ed-Duweir. The tel was first identified as the location of the biblical city of Lachish by the American archaeologist William Albright in 1929. The identification was based mainly on the site’s geographical location, which matches biblical and Christian sources. This was later shown to be correct based on archaeological findings.

History of the Research

The tel was excavated by several expeditions over the years: the first excavations were conducted in the years 1932-1938 by British archaeologist James Starkey until his murder in 1938 during the Arab Revolt in British Mandate Palestine. In the years 1966 and 1968, the site was excavated in a reduced capacity by Yohanan Aharoni. From 1973-1994 the site was excavated in wide capacity by David Ussishkin. In 2013-2017, the site was excavated by a joint expedition from the Hebrew University and the Southern Adventist University, headed by Yosef Garfinkel and Michael Hasel. Since 2017 the tel is being excavated in a reduced capacity by a joint Israeli-Austrian expedition headed by Felix Höflmayer.

Early Lachish

From the Potter Neolithic era until the Early Bronze II period (6th millennium-early 3rd millennium BCE), the settlement at the site was small. From the Early Bronze III (2800-2500 BCE) the settlement expanded and may have even been fortified. Circa 2200 BCE the site was destroyed or abandoned and remained in this state until the Middle Bronze Age (beginning of the 2nd millennium BCE), when it was resettled, until it was destroyed by fire around 1550 BCE. The site was rebuilt during the Late Bronze Ib (beginning of the 14th century BCE) and remained active until the end of the 13th century. Five letters from various kings of Lachish sent to the pharaoh were found among the ‘El-Amarna Letters.’ The city and its rulers are mentioned in other letters as well. Among the findings from this period are: a temple to the Canaanite goddess Elat and her Egyptian counterpart Hathor, which was built in a fosse that wrapped around the tel; a scarab belonging to Ramesses II; and Egyptian and Mycenean pottery vessels (the latter from Mycenae near the Aegean Sea).

The Canaanite and Judahite city of Lachish

During the Late Bronze IIIb (beginning of the 12th c. BCE), a wealthy Canaanite city controlled by Egypt was located at the site. Among the findings of this era may be counted jewelry, scarabs, glass vessels, ivories, a number of Canaanite temples, a golden cultic plaque and more. The city was destroyed circa 1130 BCE, perhaps at the hands of the Sea Peoples, and in due time, became a Judahite city which was active during the Iron IIa-IIb period (early 10th-end of 8th c. BCE according to the higher chronology). During some of this era the city was fortified and included massive walls and a gate. It is possible that these fortifications were related to Rehoboam’s fortification plan (2 Chronicles 11:5-12). Findings from this period include a fortified palace, dozens of ‘LMLK’ jars and private jars, many ‘Shekel’ weights and more.

Lachish between the Assyrian campaign of Sennacherib and the Babylonian campaign of Nebuchadnezzar

The city was destroyed during Sennacherib’s conquest of Judah in 701 BCE. A testament to the destruction of Lachish is found on massive wall reliefs that decorated Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh and describe the storming of the city. The Assyrian attack on Lachish is also hinted at in the Bible (2 Kings 18:14-19; Isaiah 36:2; 37:8; 2 Chronicles 32:9). Findings from the battle include arrowheads, spears, slingstones, pieces of armor, and more. During the Iron IIc (7th c. BCE) the site was rebuilt as a fortified settlement. In that settlement strata the ‘Lachish Letters’ were found. These are a collection of ostraca that document activities of the Judahite soldiers stationed at Lachish and at nearby military bases. The city was destroyed again during Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Judah, in 588 or 586 BCE.

The site after the Babylonian destruction
At the beginning of the Persian period (end of the 6th c. BCE), the site was settled once again and later on became a fortified administrative center. The site continued to exist through the Hellenistic period and in the Roman period, a small village existed at the site.


D. Diringer, ‘The Early Hebrew Weights Found at Lachish’, PEQ 74 (1942), pp. 82-103

D. Ussishkin et al, The Renewed Archaeological Excavations at Lachish (1973-1994) – Vol. I, Tel Aviv 2004

D. Ussishkin et al, The Renewed Archaeological Excavations at Lachish (1973-1994) – Vol. IV, Tel Aviv 2004