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Khirbet Kerak

KHIRBET KERAK kĭr’ bət kûr’ äk (Arab., “Ruin of the Fortress”; Heb., Beth Yerah). A large and important archeological site on the southwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, just N of the present mouth of the Jordan River. It was strategically located at the crossroads of two important caravan routes. The site covers over 54 acres, and is 1,200 by 350 meters in size. Excavations from 1941—c. 1955 were carried out by B. Mazar, M. Stekelis, M. Avi-Yonah, P. Guy, and Mr. Bar-Adon. Occupations during Late Chalcolithic through Middle Bronze II periods were reported, with a gap until Hel. times. The Talmud identifies the site with Beth-Yerah (“House of the Moon”), which L. Sukenik showed identical with Philoteria, named in honor of Ptolemy Philadelphus’ sister. The famous Khirbet Kerak pottery ware was first identified at this site, although it evidently originated in northern Anatolia and the Caucasus region. Its sudden appearance speaks of conquest from that direction.

Khirbet Kerak was one of the region’s major cities in its early history, but there was also an occupational gap between the end of the Early Bronze and beginning of the Middle Bronze Ages. Fortifications included E. B. walls of 30 ft. in thickness (fully demonstrating the city-state in urban structure), and strong Hel. structures.


L. Sukenik, “The Ancient City of Philoteria (Beth Yerah),” JPOS II (1922), 101-108; W. Albright, “The Jordan Valley in the Bronze Age,” AASOR VI (1926), 27-31; G. Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land (25th ed., 1932), 451-455; Maisler, Stekelis, and Avi-Yonah, “The Excavations at Beth-Yerah, 1944-46,” IEJ Vol. 2, Nos. 3, 4 (1952) 165-173, 218-229; P. Delougaz and R. Haines, A. Byzantine Church at Khirbat al-Karak (1960), 1-3; Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible (1967), 9, 122, 123, 125.