Eshtamoe is identified with the Arab village of Samoe in the south of the Judean Mountains, about 14 km south of Hebron. In 1838, Edward Robinson identified Samua with the biblical Ashtamua. He described Samua as a “significant village full of sheep and herds”. He also found the remains of walls built of very large stones, some of which were more than ten meters long.


Eshtemoa was a town in the territory of Judah, mentioned in the Bible (Joshua 15:50) and granted to the Levites (Joshua 21:14; 1 Chronicles 6:42). David sent spoils to the elders of Eshtemoa after a campaign against the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:28). Eusebius, in the 4th century CE, referred to it as a large Jewish village.

History and Biblical Context

Eshtemoa’s history spans several periods, with notable occupation during the Iron Age. It was an important settlement in the territory of Judah and played a significant role in the region’s religious and cultural history. The ruins of Eshtamo’a date from the Iron Age II (9th-6th centuries BCE), the Persian period (5th-4th centuries BCE), the Hellenistic period (4th-1st centuries BCE), and the Roman period (1st-3rd centuries CE). .


Exploratory excavations in 1934-1936 were led by L.A. Mayer and A. Reifenberg on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Further excavations in 1969-1970 were directed by Z. Yeivin. These excavations focused on uncovering the ruins of a synagogue at the site.


The Silver Hoard of Eshtemoa

A significant discovery at Eshtemoa was the hoard of silver from the Iron Age, found adjoining the north wall of the synagogue. This hoard was uncovered in a room that had been used as a dwelling until the excavations in 1968. The silver was discovered under the floor of this room, placed directly on bedrock.

  • Iron Age Settlement: Eshtemoa was an active settlement during the Iron Age, as evidenced by the archaeological remains.
  • The city wall of Eshtamo’a was built in the Iron Age II and is about 4 meters thick. The wall encloses an area of about 2 hectares. The gatehouse of Eshtamo’a is a two-chambered structure with a guardroom and a passage. The palace of Eshtamo’a is a large building with a central courtyard. The temple of Eshtamo’a is a small building with a single room.
  • Synagogue: The synagogue, a rectangular structure with three entrances, was a significant find. It featured a portico, a well-preserved street, and a piazza paved with large flagstones. The synagogue’s interior included the Ark of the Law, the bema, and three niches in the north wall.
  • Mosaic Pavement: The synagogue was adorned with mosaic pavements, including a five-color mosaic depicting a tree and an Aramaic inscription.
  • Architectural Features: The synagogue’s walls varied in width, with the interior hall not subdivided by columns. Stone benches and a mihrab were found, indicating later use as a mosque.


Stern, Ephraim-New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land 2-Israel Exploration Society (1993)