Biblical Warfare: How Did the Assyrians Conquer Judea Lachish?

About 2,700 years ago, the Assyrian king Sennacherib conquered the Jewish city of Lachish in one of the most documented battles in ancient history, as described in the Bible, in Assyrian records, and even in works of art that have survived to this day. .

A group of Israeli and American archaeologists have now shed light on how that dramatic war was carried out, and specifically how the conquering troops built the siege ramp that allowed them to capture the city. The results of his research, which combined the analysis of biblical and historical sources with the study of archaeological remains and the landscape, were recently published in the Oxford Journal of Archeology.

“In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria marched against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them,” says a passage from chapter 36 of the Book of Isaiah. “From Lachish, the king of Assyria sent the Rabshaz, with great force, to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem.”

“The area had already emerged as a clear battlefield site,” said Professor Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, lead author of the paper. “The summit was excavated about 40 years ago and hundreds of flint stones and arrowheads were found. Also, about 40-50% of the ramp has survived. Now we understand how it was built. “

To achieve the result, the researchers developed a theoretical model and then compared it to the evidence, employing techniques such as photogrammetric analysis of aerial photographs to create a detailed digital map of the relevant landscape.

Once a prominent Canaanite city, according to the biblical text, Lachish was one of the centers conquered by Joshua after the Israelites entered the land of Israel. It later became a major city in the Kingdom of Judah, second only to Jerusalem.

Several stone panels found in a palace in Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, offer a vivid description of its siege at the hands of the Assyrians in 701 BC. C. the battering rams, which allowed the conquering army to break the city wall.

“To build the ramp, the Assyrians could have used sediment or stones,” Garfinkel said. “However, containers are needed to move the sediment, which was not very practical, whereas a stone can pass from one man to another very quickly.”

The six locations on the Assyrian siege ramp where the stones were recovered and weighed in Lachish (credit: Dr. M. Pytlik)

The Assyrians, however, needed an incredible amount of rocks to build such a massive structure.

“Next to the cliff, we found a quarry,” said the archaeologist.

The researchers estimated that the ramp was built with about three million stones, with an average weight of about 6.5 kilos each.

“I think at least 1,000 men worked for the project,” Garfinkel said.

These men were likely not soldiers, but prisoners of war, forced to work around the clock to complete the siege ramp. According to Garfinkel, about 160,000 stones were passed in a human chain each day and the project could have taken as little as 25 days.

“In ancient times, wars could not be fought in winter, so the Assyrian army was in a hurry to conclude its campaign in the summer months,” Garfinkel said.

To ensure that the Lachish defenders could not impede the construction of the ramp, the work probably began some 80 meters from the wall, with the workers building progressively higher and pulling the stones down to advance. “

In this way, they could only be attacked from the city in the last few meters, ”said Garfinkel.

When the ramp was completed, the Assyrian army smashed through the city wall with heavy battering rams, spreading death and destruction.

In the future, Garfinkel hopes to conduct further excavations in the quarry area in Lachish, at the far end of the ramp, to find more material that will shed light on Assyrian warfare techniques.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *