Tell es-Safi Gath

Gath of the Philistine Pentapolis

Perhaps no other Philistine city can be as closely associated with the earliest lore of the Israelite tribes as Tell es-Safi, identified as Biblical Gath. The Bible describes Gath as one of the five cities of the Philistines and the home of the giant Goliath. David fled to the city of Gath when he was being chased by the vengeful Saul, and the Ark of the Covenant was said to have been brought here when it was captured by the Philistines during the battle of Ebenezer. Without question, the Philistines of Gath were key players in the formation of Israelite and Judahite identity.

Biblical Archaeology: From the Ground Down

How does a dig team work? What do archaeologists look for at a dig? In this documentary DVD, learn how excavators work and what we can learn from archaeology. More information.

One of the largest multi-periods tells in the Levant, Tell es-Safi/Gath boasts impressive remains from the Proto-historic (Early Bronze Age) through modern times. In past seasons, the Tell es-Safi excavations have uncovered important evidence for the Philistine occupation of the site, including houses, cultic finds, rare Philistine burials and the so-called “Goliath” inscription—a small sherd inscribed with two non-Semitic names possibly related to the name Goliath. They have also revealed evidence of the destruction wrought by King Hazael of Damascus during the late ninth century B.C. and the massive siege system he employed to conquer the site—the oldest known system of its kind in the world. Additional finds in recent seasons include a large, stone altar with two horns, and a unique ivory bowl. In the coming seasons, we will focus on the excavations of the lower city, and in particular the remains of the Iron Age I and II (ca. 1100–830 B.C.E.) remains, including the massive fortifications and gate, and various public and private buildings.

Aren Maeir

Aren MaeirAren Maeir, a former captain in the Israeli army, heads the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath, which began in 1996. He has also excavated at Hazor, Beth Shean and Qasile and directed archaeological excavations and surveys in Jerusalem (the Western Wall Tunnels, Mamilla, Kikar Safra, Malha), the Beth Shean Valley and Tel Yavneh. He is currently chairman of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University.
Dr. Maeir has published more than 80 studies, both popular and scholarly, and recently authored Bronze and Iron Age Tomb Finds at Tel Gezer, Israel (Archaeopress, 2004).

Dig Directors

Aren Maeir

Geographic Location

Halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon in southern Israel

Periods of Occupation

Prehistoric to Modern

Dates of the Dig

June 23 – July 19, 2019

Minimum Stay

Two weeks

Application Due

May 1, 2019


Person in a regular room: $550; single room: $1,150; person in double room: $850; person in inexpensive rooms: $500 week. 2 weeks minimum (plus $50 registration fee, which is waived for 4 week participation).

Academic Credit/Cost per Credit/Institution

3 or 6 credits; $500/3 credits, $1,000/6 credits; awarded by Bar-Ilan University


In the 2018 season, the team will be housed in the dormitories of the Zafit Regional High School, located at Kibbutz Kfar Menahem, about a 10-minute drive from the site. Rooms all have a/c; regular room has up to 6 persons per room with attached private bathroom/shower.

Limited number of private or double rooms for extra charge. Limited number of less expensive rooms, with use of public bathroom/shower. Kibbutz has general store and pool.


Dr. Aren Maeir
Institute of Archaeology
Bar-Ilan University
Ramat-Gan 52900
Phone: 011-972-54-620-5082

Open for tours

Yes - by appointment