Discovery of Possible Royal Escape Tunnel at Biblical Site

January 22, 2015 (Source:

Originally reported on January 10

A team of archaeologists excavating at the ancient site best known as Bethsaida not far from the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee have encountered what they suggest may be what is left of an escape tunnel that was used by the city’s royal elite during the times of ancient Israel and Judah.

Though it is still very early in the investigation process, one entrance of the tunnel has been located, and collapsed structural debris and ground penetrating radar images have indicated possible evidence of the suspected tunnel area extending from an ancient palace structure out to an outer city wall. Similar features have been found at other ancient sites, and the biblical account, for example, documents such an escape route used by King Zedekiah and others when Jerusalem was being besieged by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar.

The site, which was identified as the likely location of the city of Bethsaida by Dr. Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska, Omaha, in 1987, has been the focus of extensive excavations under Arav’s directorship since 1990. It has yielded structural and artifact remains of two cities: Bethsaida, a town that, according to the biblical account, was visited by Jesus in the 1stcentury CE and was the hometown of several of his apostles; and a much older city whose remains lie beneath it, thought to be the likely capital city of the 9th –10th century BCE (Iron Age) kingdom of Geshur, an ally of the Kingdom of Israel as mentioned in the Bible. Extensive finds have been uncovered from the site representing both time periods and cultures, with some of the most ‘sensational’ findings coming from the Iron Age period city, where archaeologists have uncovered one of the largest and most complete city gate complexes in the Levant, in addition to a palace and massive defensive works with an inner and outer city wall.

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