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An hour southwest of Jerusalem, Tel Zayit (Arabic Zeitah, "olive tree") lies in Israel's fertile Beth Guvrin Valley, roughly halfway between the major Israelite city of Lachish and Tel es Safi (likely, Gath of the Philistines). Tel Zayit belonged to the Libnah district of biblical Judah (Joshua 15:42) and its ancient identification may be associated with Libnah itself or with the town of Ziklag (1 Samuel 27-30). The site's acropolis and lower settlement cover about 7.5 acres-a manageable size for exposing the maximum amount of occupational debris buried there.
Zeitah lies at the crossroads of four major ancient roadways connecting Egypt and the plain of Philistia with Jerusalem and the highlands of Judah, making it an ideal site to study life in an ancient town that saw frequent opportunities for contact between people of diverse cultures.
Artifacts recovered from Tel Zayit reveal that it was occupied from the Middle Bronze Age to the biblical period and on through to Ottoman times. Zeitah's inhabitants undoubtedly traded goods with merchants from all over the Near East, faced the terrible Assyrian assault of 701 B.C.E., and watched anxiously for the signal fires of Lachish and Azekah during the Babylonian invasion of 587/6 B.C.E.
The Zeitah Excavations launched its archaeological study of this biblical town in 1999, and is pursuing its fourth of 10 planned seasons of fieldwork. For more information visit the Zeitah Web Site