IDF soldiers recently uncovered a watchtower from the First Temple period during an archaeological dig on their base in southern Israel.
The tower, which was dated to the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah in the 8th century BCE, was likely part of a network of observation posts that used torches as means to send messages between communities, the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement Wednesday.
The IAA said the watchtower, which was found on the Paratroopers Brigade training base, was built using especially large stones, some of which weighed as much as eight tons, and was located on high ground overlooking the Hebron Hills, Judean Hills and the coastal area around Ashkelon.
The dig was carried out by soldiers on the base as part of an IDF initiative to encourage commanders and soldiers to be “responsible and actively involved in protecting the values of nature, the landscape and heritage in their environment.”
Some 150 soldiers undergoing basic training and their commanders took part in the project, the IAA said, and the project was overseen by IAA officials Saar Ganor and Lifshitz Vladik.
Ganor and Vladik said the tower appeared to be part of the torch communications system, as described in the Hebrew Bible.
“The strategic location of the tower served as an observation point and warning [system] against the Philistine enemy, one of whose main cities was Ashkelon,” said the IAA.
“The Kingdom of Judah built a system of towers and fortresses that were a communications, warning and signaling post, as a way of passing messages and field intelligence,” they added.
According to the IAA, operations at the watchtower ceased in 701 BCE, when the Assyrian King Sennacherib destroyed 46 cities and thousands of villages and farms during his military campaign in Judah. During the dig, the entrance to the tower was discovered to have been sealed, with the IAA saying the soldiers stationed there likely went to a nearby fortified city when the Assyrians invaded.
“Some 2,700 years after Sennacherib’s campaign, Israel Defense Forces soldiers uncovered a watchtower of soldiers from the Judean army, very similar to the ones the army uses today,” the statement said.