During the 1960’s and 70’s extensive excavations were conducted at Tel Sheva. It was ascertained that the settlement there reached the peak of its development in the Iron Age II (the tenth-seventh centuries BCE), at which time a city wall was constructed around it and the place became a royal administrative city. Many scholars believe that the city of Beer Sheva, which is mentioned in the Bible, should be identified with the site at Tel Sheva.

This notwithstanding, it seems that such an identification is problematic and should not be accepted as though it was patently obvious. It is against this background that we will describe the finds that were discovered in the city of Beer Sheva, especially those that were recently discovered in Compound C in the vicinity of the municipal marketplace, and will discuss the possibility that biblical Beer Sheva was not situated at Tell es-Saba’ (Tel Sheva), but rather at Bir e-Saba’ (Beer Sheva).

Areas were first excavated in Compound C in 1962, 1965, 1968 and 1992 and remains were found there that date to the Iron Age. The most important stratigraphic and architectural complex in this compound was uncovered in the new excavations that are being conducted there since 2004.

Massive walls of what was probably a large public building were exposed here that date to the Iron Age II. Floors and fills were found that adjoined the walls and the pottery vessels that were discovered on them date only to the Iron Age II. It was ascertained already in this phase of the excavation that the massive walls descend to a depth of at least two meters below the surface level and their foundations have still not been exposed. As mentioned, most of the objects from this assemblage date to the Iron Age II, particularly from eighth century BCE. Remains of a residential building contemporary with this period were found adjacent to the public building and they are a testament to the might of the Iron Age settlement.

In other excavations around Compound C, in the new Bedouin marketplace, several sections of foundations of stone walls that were preserved to a height of 1-5 m were found in 1999. Remains of pottery vessels, mudbricks, ash, carbon and two basins made of white chalk were found in them. Remains of a residential building from this period were excavated in the excavations of a water conduit adjacent to Nahal Beer Sheva, south of Compound C.

In the archaeological excavations that have been conducted in Beer Sheva, particularly in the last decade, two fundamental facts have been determined regarding the settlement of the city in the Iron Age. Remains of an Iron Age II settlement were found at different points in the southern part of the Turkish city where excavations were carried out, beginning with the first excavations in the 1960’s. Since we are dealing with a sufficiently defined area and an identical material culture, we can reasonably assume that this is a single settlement that was spread across a relatively extensive area. An attempt to estimate the area of the settlement based on the distribution of its archaeological remains has shown that the settlement extended across an area of c. 80 dunams. The area of the administrative center at Tel Sheva, which also dates to the Iron Age II, was only 11.5 dunams, and in the opinion of the excavators only c. 400 people resided there. The second fundamental fact that has become clear to us since 2003 is that we are not dealing with a small rural village in which there are scattered isolated dwelling units, rather what we have here is a settlement that incorporates very densely built residential buildings with monumental/public construction.

It seems that the relationship between Beer Sheva-Sheva is similar to that of Moreshet Gat-Gat, Ashdod-Ashdod Yam, and Yavne-Yavne-Yam etc. Although they are two different settlements they were still connected to each other – possibly by a historical tie based on development whereby one was the mother city and the other the daughter city, or because of their geographic proximity similar names were given to the cities. The answer to the question which of the two settlements was founded first is hidden in the continuation of the excavations at Beer Sheva, but we can already state that the two settlements were established in the Iron Age I, and they existed side by side in the Iron Age II as well, until they were destroyed by Sennacherib’s campaign at the end of the seventh century BCE.