Tel Be’er Sheva is the remains of the biblical town of Beer Sheva. It is located to the east of the modern city of Beer Sheva. The town of Beer Sheva is mentioned in Genesis when Abimelech and Abraham swear an oath beside a well; this story about Abraham’s well gave the town its name.
The town was built by a wadi, which filled with rain during the winter months. In the summer, the water remained under the ground, as shown by the multitude of wells dug in the area.
The earliest finds at the site are from the Chalcolithic period around 4000 BCE. In the 12th century, the Israelites entered Israel from Egypt, and the area of Beersheva was given to the tribe of Shimon and later to Yehuda (Simon and Judah).
King Saul built a fort in Be’er Sheva, which was used when fighting against the Amalekites in the south of Israel. King David built a town at the site, which is the oldest archaeological remains found in the city, from the tenth century BCE.
In the 9th century BCE, the town was rebuilt and prospered. The inhabitants of the town were a heathen cult, as shown by the horned altar found on the spot; Jewish law prohibits building an altar of hewn stones. The prophet Amos mentions the town’s idolatry.
The town of Be’er Sheva was destroyed in 701 BCE by King Sennacherib of Assyria. It was rebuilt once again, and destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. The Persians built a fortress later on, and an Arab fort was built on the spot in the 7th century CE.
The town has been reconstructed as it was in the 8th century BCE, from the time of King Hezekiah. The fortifications of ancient Be’er Sheva include fortification walls, gates, and towers. The town was surrounded by a mud brick wall from the 10th century BCE. The wall was rebuilt in the 9th century BCE, when it was a double wall, where the space between the two walls was used for living. The streets were laid out in a circular fashion, where the streets meet in the main square.
The town also has a water cistern carved out of the rock below the town. The Israelite town housed about 400 people, mainly military and civil servants, with peasants and farmers living in the surrounding villages.
Things to see
The water system from the 8th century BCE is particularly noteworthy. In addition to the cisterns, wells and water carriers have been found. The well outside the city is 70 meters deep, the deepest found anywhere in the Negev.
A large horned altar from the 9th century BCE was found, evidence of a heathen cult which occupied the town at that time. While the altar has been moved to the Israel Museum, a replica can be seen at the site.
Houses, storehouses, and the governor’s palace have been found dating from around the 8th century BCE. Opposite the storehouses lie the remains of the Roman fort from the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, which had smooth pavement.
Tip: About 2 hours are necessary to tour the place. The tel is not wheelchair accessible, but is easy walking, with the exception of the water cisterns which require maneuvering many steps.
Tip: Tel Be’er Sheva is a national park, so it is open during the standard park hours in Israel: 8:00-16:00 in the winter, 8:00-17:00 in the summer months.
Tip: Tel Be’er Sheva National Park is located just south of Be’er Sheva, on road 60, near the Bedouin town of Tel Sheva