Dan (Tel Dan) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephen Langfur
Article Index
Dan (Tel Dan)
City and ramparts
Gate of Judgment
Early Danites
Golden calf
Arched gate

The City and its Ramparts

By various routes through the nature reserve, long or short, we can reach the base of the tell. This covers an area of 50 acres. Much of it consists of ramparts built around the 18th century BC. The ramparts consist of a stone core with layers of soil and/or mud brick extending downward to the inside and outside, plastered over to prevent erosion. The base is about 60 yards thick, and the whole belt is more than a mile long.

Avraham Biran, who began to dig here in 1966 and continued for more than 30 years, estimates that the construction entailed moving a million cubic meters of material. "Assuming that a workman could move one cubic meter of material per day, it would take a thousand laborers about three years to build these ramparts." (Biran, p. 71.)  

The ramparts occupied so much of the town that they reduced the available living space, forming a kind of crater with no room for expansion. Since the location is low, and smack on a junction of important roads, its denizens felt a need to protect themselves by this major operation. Once the ramparts were finished, however, they apparently thought they sufficed, for no trace of a wall has been found on top. They were living "in security," discovered the spies from the homeless tribe of Dan,  "quiet and secure." "Arise," they told the rest of the tribe, "and let us go up against them; for we have seen the land, and behold, it is very good.." (Judges 18:7-9.)  


The story of the Danite conquest (Judges 18) is best told atop the southwestern part of the tell at the Pistachio Tree Lookout. From here, facing south, we can see part of Mt. Hermon and the Golan Heights to the east; the Naftali ridge to the west; the Hula Valley south of us; and on its horizon, the basalt barrier mentioned at Hazor. The barrier has a V-like cut made by modern Israel when it drained the Hula swamp in the 1950's.