Recent archaeological findings in Samaria, Israel shed light on the incomplete story of the destruction of Shiloh, the ancient capital of Israel.
An uncovered broken clay pitcher lying in a layer of reddish ashes was discovered near the ancient site where the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, was placed during the Judges period. Shiloh essentially served as Israel’s capital in the 13th century BCE during the first Israelite commonwealth, and as the spiritual center in Israel for 369 years until its destruction. The Bible does not provide much detail of the story of its ruin, but the discovery of the pitcher may shed light on the manner in which the capital met its tragic demise.
The book of Samuel tells of a battle between the Philistines and the Israelites, during which the Philistines prevailed, and the temple’s Holy Ark was captured by them. After hearing the news of the defeat from a messenger, Eli the High Priest, the leader of his time, who lost his two sons in the battle, fell back and died. This is all we learn of the defeat from the Book of Samuel. We know that Shiloh was destroyed shortly after and the book of Jeremiah indicates that Shiloh was destroyed by the Philistines.
The new archaeological finding indicates that a devastating fire occurred on the site. The dating of the clay pitcher, 1050 BCE, correlates with the dating of the events depicted in Book of Samuel.
Avital Selah, director of the Tel Shiloh site, told Tazpit News Agency that these findings were discovered during a massive dig of Tel Shiloh, the site of ancient Shiloh, in which some 1000 youth volunteers from across Israel participated. Similar findings were discovered some thirty years ago, including food leftovers, and their dating is also set at 1050 BCE, but it is only the recently discovered layer of ashes that provides new information on the story of the destruction of the ancient Israelite capital.