The treatment of the finds from the Tel Beer Sheva excavations directed by Yohanan Aharoni and the renewed excavations in connection with the exposure of the water system at the tell in 1994-1996 have produced enlightening facts and new conclusions. In this discussion I will briefly address two aspects of the new findings: the social insight that has arisen from an analysis of the data from Strata VII-V for reconstructing the process by which the state came into being in Judah on the one hand, and the social insight that we have derived from an analysis of the city plan at Tel Beer Sheva, Strata II on the other.

The process whereby Judah was consolidated into a state is manifested in two architectural phases: the early Iron Age IIA (Stratum VII and its parallels) and the late Iron Age IIA (Stratum V and its parallels). The early phase is characterized by civilian settlements, without any obvious social hierarchy, and their economy is based on raising sheep and goat and growing unirrigated crops. The later phase is characterized by the reduction in the scope of the civilian settlement and the construction of administrative centers such as the fortified city in Stratum V at Tel Beer Sheva. The early phase must be chronologically parallel to Shishak’s List and therefore Lilly Singer-Avitz and I have proposed a 50 year period for its duration from 950 until 900 BCE. The later phase also coincides with Stratum IV at Beer Sheva and it continued until the end of the ninth century and perhaps even later. We have assigned the year 800 BCE as a round figure for the transition to the Iron Age IIB. The two phases represent the consolidation process of the Kingdom of Judah, specifically outside of the high mountain region, in the Beer Sheva Valley and in the Shephelah.

To date the plan of Stratum II at the tell constitutes the most complete and detailed plan of a city in the Iron Age. The fortified and meticulously planned city undoubtedly served as a seat for the administration’s officials. The plan was meant to provide for the settlement’s defensive requirements, the day-to-day conveniences of the inhabitants and service for the trade caravans and the army that stopped nearby it. It is important to point out that along with the meticulous planning of the road system the plans of the houses are conspicuous and indicate that the kind of the house and its size were a direct function of the occupants and their status in the administrative hierarchy. An analysis of the components of the urban plan (at the same time as an analysis of the household characteristics that will be presented by my colleague Lilly Singer-Avitz) constitutes a layer in reconstructing the social organization of the administrative system of the Kingdom of Judah.