By: Katerina Kitchen
Excavation at Biblical Tamar Park began to be of importance most recently in the 1970’s. The site consists of many different structures from a variety of time periods, the oldest dating back to the time of King Solomon. During this time period (mid-tenth century BCE) King Solomon had a fortress built which he named after his sister Tamar. This is the first of four fortresses, three of great importance, that were built at the site.
he second fortress discovered was built during the period of the Judaean Kingdom (ninth century BCE). This is referred to as the Middle Fortress and it is the largest fortress at the site. There is still much of this fortress in tact. Storerooms and its two granaries are still visible. The Gate Complex is massive and extremely well preserved even to the untrained eye. Within one of the granaries was found the remains of wheat and barley dating back to the same period as the fortress itself.
The third and latest fortress was built in the seventh-sixth century BCE period. This is the smallest of the three fortresses, all of which date back to the First Temple Period. It is not possible to know much about this fortress as not much of it has been preserved.
The fourth and final fortress dates back to the third-fourth century BCE. This fortress is from the late Roman period. It is believed that this fortress was destroyed by an earthquake. It is also believed that this fortress was part of a chain of many fortresses along the route through the Negev, the Arava and the Dead Sea region.
Also found within the area are three other significant structures, the first of which is an Edomite Shrine. This shrine is situated just outside one of the fortress walls and is believed to have been destroyed when a decree was put forth from King Josiah. This probably took place within the same era as the Latest Fortress. There were a vast number of idols and cult symbols found smashed within a pit in the area. This was purposely done to rid the region of idolatry.
The second is a Roman Bathhouse. The bathhouse had not only a cool room and a warm room, but also a sweat room and a hot room. It was also equipped with a latrine. The floors were made of stone, some of which can still be seen today. Also visible are parts of the water heating system still very much intact. Large amounts of Roman glass and Roman coins have been found at the site.
The third significant structure is an Israeli Four Room House that was excavated just outside the Middle Fortress Gates. This is extremely important as it is the only one found in the area. There are plans in affect to reconstruct the house just outside of where the dig sits. The replication will be built to full scale. When this is accomplished it will be open to the public.
The site at Biblical Tamar Park has been inhabited by a large variety of different people during very different centuries. However, it has been visited by many groups of people due to its location, which was on the Petra-Gaza section of the Spice Route. More recent inhabitants of the site were the Ottomons and the British. For this reason one can see the building that was used as a jail and the outside of an old British bomb shelter towards the center of the site.
In short, the site at Biblical Tamar Park is as rich in history as it is in treasures, boasting the largest collection of artifacts from an archeological site in Israel at the Jerusalem Museum. For this reason there is hope that a museum can be built at Biblical Tamar Park along with the replication of the Israeli Four Room House.
Though there are magnificent and very meaningful historical finds at Biblical Tamar Park, the park is not limited to them. In all, Biblical Tamar Park consists of 53 acres (208 dunams) of land. Currently, the Israeli Antiquities Authority has named Blossoming Rose, a non-profit organization based in the United States, as curator of the Park. Blossoming Rose works jointly with and Israeli based non-profit organization called For Blossoming Israel who holds a twenty-five year lease to the park. Both Blossoming Rose and For blossoming Israel are highly dedicated to conserving, developing and protecting Biblical Tamar Park.