From the fifth through the second centuries BCE, Kedesh housed a huge administrative building, initially constructed in the fifth century BCE, when the entire region lay under the rule of the Achaemenid Persians. Five seasons of excavation now allow us to reconstruct the plan of that original structure: 5400 square meters, oriented to the east, with a large entry court adorned with Doric columns and two more interior courtyards. The courtyards are symmetrically arranged along the building’s long axis. The plan and size evoke the royal Achaemenid compounds at Susa and Pasargadae; however the Doric capitals suggest a Mediterranean rather than an eastern orientation. Associated finds include three seals: two conical glass stamp seals carved with a master of beasts motif, and a green jasper scaraboid carved with the head of a dignitary. We have also found a clay bulla made from a very finely carved oval seal showing two gazelles on either side of a tall flower.

The building and its associated finds attest to the site’s political importance, and lead directly to the question of who built it and what territory they controlled. The first relevant point is the date of the building’s construction for which the best evidence is the imported Attic pottery. We have found about 100 fragments, of which 90% date to the later fifth and fourth centuries BCE. A construction date in the last quarter of the fifth century is of great interest, since it is precisely at that time that the Achaemenids divided Babylon and Across-the-River into two separate satrapies. Therefore one possibility for the structure at Kedesh is that it was built to house a lower-level imperial official, somebody who reported directly to the satrap and oversaw territories on his behalf. Another possibility is that at this time the king of one of the Phoenician coastal cities, possibly Tyre, was granted hegemony over a large interior hinterland, similar to the awarding of coastal property recorded in the Eshmun’azar inscription.

Until now most of the evidence – archaeological, epigraphic, and literary – regarding administration of this province has come from the fourth century BCE and largely from its far southern portions, namely Samaria, Ammon, Judah, and Idumaea. As a consequence, Achaemenid governance of “Across the River” has been conceived as fairly hands-off, relying on local power holders (such as Sanballat of Samaria). The identification of a serious administrative presence at a strategic point in northeastern Galilee changes that conception, and inspires reflection on its meaning and its effects.