Tel Gezer is one of the most important places in all of Israel. Gezer is located on a high hill overlooking the coastal plain of Israel, as well as the Aijalon Valley, which leads up to Jerusalem. As such, Gezer has seen a lot of history.
Digs at Tel Gezer date settlement in the area to the late fourth century BC. At that time, people lived in caves cut out of rocks. The area was unfortified.
During the Middle Bronze Age, Gezer was fortified and became one of the leading cities in Israel. The city was strong enough that when written about in the book of Joshua it is remarked that the people could not be conquered, and that the Canaanites lived there “even to this day.”
Ten monolithic stone pillars stand in Gezer from this time period. It is suggested that these represent a treaty between ten Canaanite cities which unified to prevent attacks from Egypt. These ten Canaanite cities are attested to in the el-Amarna letters. Pharaoh Thutmose III left an inscription dating to 1468 BC referring to his victory at Gezer.
After these attacks, the people of Gezer built a second wall around the first, at a lower level of the hill to better protect themselves. The city grew in wealth at this time. But again, attacks came and the city was destroyed. In the 13th Century, the victory stele of Merneptah mentions Israel for the first time, and also tells us that Gezer was captured.
The influence of Gezer continued to grow during the Iron Age. Larger dwellings have been found, as well as Philistine pottery. The city stood at the edge of the coastal plain where the Philistines settled.
Gezer is again mentioned in the Bible during the time of Solomon. The settlement was a gift from Pharaoh Siamun to Solomon as a wedding present. King Solomon fortified the city with a double wall and gates. Similar gates were found at Megiddo. A famous artifact found at Gezer from this time or before was an agricultural calendar.
Settlement of Gezer continued into the period of the divided kingdom. During the period a new gate (this time two chambered) was built and the water system was expanded. But the fortifications did not keep the city safe. Pharaoh Shishak defeated the city during the time of Jeroboam.
Gezer was destroyed by Tiglath Pileser of Assyria in 733 BC. A relief is found in the King’s palace at Nimrud in Mesopotamia. The area was still under Assyrian control according to clay seals found detailing a land purchase almost 100 years after this attack.
Settlement continued at Gezer during the time of Hezekiah and Joash, during the seventy years of Babylonian control, and during the Persian period. Simon Maccabee built a palace at Gezer.
In the days of Jesus, settlement continued at Gezer. The area was Jewish at this time as evidenced by Mikvah pools.
Because of its strategic location settlement continued through many millennium at Gezer. The site is 26 levels deep, and today archeologists are digging several sites over a 33 acre hilltop. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is digging at the water source of Gezer. A consortium of six schools is digging the Bronze Age ruins. The region around Gezer is being explored by the Tandy Institute of Archeology. Each of these projects has enhanced knowledge of the area through rich findings.
You can participate in the digs at Tel Gezer, or other sites (see this web page). There is no better way to experience archeology than a hands-on dig.