HOME / Table of Contents = Civilizations - Cultures - Areas - Regions - Prehistory
Other Archaeological Sites / The Neolithic of the Levant (500 Page Book Online)

Biblical Ai (Et Tell)

Selected Excerpt on Ai (Et Tell)

Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times
Donald Redford -- Princeton University (1992)

Aerial View of Ai

Ai is a biblical site located east of Bethel. Et Tell is generally accepted as biblical Ai; both the Hebrew and Arabic names for the site mean the ruin heap. Ai was the second place attacked by the incoming Israelites under Joshua. The major evidence from Et Tell points to five settlement phases with abundant cultural remains.

The original settlement (Early Bronze IB circa 3250-3100 BC) is an unwalled village 220 metres long. The artifacts indicate a mixture of local Chalcolithic traits of the indigenous population and also foreign elements.

The second settlement phase (EB IC circa 3100-2950 BC) was a well-planned city enclosing 275 acres. Massive fortifications were constructed over the homes in the unwalled village. The changes in material culture and settlement plans suggest that the indigenous population was absorbed by newcomers -- possibly from Anatolia and Syria. This settlement ended in destruction -- a blanket of ashes being mute testimony to the violent event.

The settlement was rebuilt in the third major phase (EB II circa 2950-2775 BC) of its history. The inhabitants repaired and modified buildings and widened and strengthened the fortifications -- all inferior to those of the original city. The massive destruction of this city may have been caused by an earthquake accompanied by an intense fire.

Egyptian involvement in the rebuilding of the fourth settlement (EB III circa 2775-2400 BC) is evident in the temple-palace and in the corner-gate area of the fortifications. This phase was ended by another violent destruction (circa 2400 BC) and the site was abandoned and left in ruins for more than a millennium.

The fifth and final settlement phase (Iron I circa 1200-1050 BC) was established on the terraces of the tell (mound) by newcomers. The new villagers -- probably Proto-Israelite -- did not fortify their settlement. This settlement may have represented the early Israelite villagers described in the Book of Judges .....

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East

The History of the Ancient Near East Electronic Compendium