A site of some importance in the Bible, located approximately 9 km (5 mi) north of Jerusalem (35°11′ N, 31°51′ E; map reference 167.6 × 139.7). The best-known biblical references to Gibeon describe a battle there between the Israelites and the Amorites. The Israelites, led by Joshua and newly allied with the people of Gibeon, protected the city from an Amorite attack led by Adonizedek of Jerusalem. In the battle, Joshua drove back the Amorites and asked God to make the sun stand still at Gibeon until the Israelites were fully victorious (Jos. 10:9–14). Gibeon was first identified by the American explorer Edward Robinson In 1838, although two traveler's accounts had suggested the identification as early as 1666 and 1738. Robinson saw the modern Arabic name el-Jib as a corruption of the ancient town name of Gibeon. The identification was confirmed by the excavations carried out by James B. Pritchard for the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, between 1956 and 1962. During those excavations, thirty-one Iron Age jar handles were found, inscribed with the name gb῾n (Gibeon). A survey of the site carried out by the Palestine Exploration Fund was published In 1870, a plan of the water tunnel was published In 1889 by Conrad Schick of the PEF, and an Iron Age tomb was discovered and published In 1950 by Awni Dajani of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities. A recent survey, done by Hanan Eshel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem In 1983–1984, documented additional Iron Age burial caves.

The University of Pennsylvania excavations at Gibeon revealed several periods of occupation. The earliest, on the top of the tell, dates to the Early Bronze Age. Unfortunately, much of this level was disturbed in both ancient and modern times, and little can be said about it. There are few occupational deposits but many tombs from the EB IV. The tombs consist of shafts cut into the limestone slope of the tell that lead to circular chambers containing the inhumation. Burial goods include ceramic vessels for food and drink, metal tools, and adornments for the deceased. Some of these tombs were reused for burials in the Middle Bronze II period and in the Late Bronze Age, when additional tombs were cut. A few remains of MB domestic architecture were found, but the main excavations on the tell concentrated on the Iron Age occupation. [See Shaft Tombs.]

Gibeon has a large and impressive water system that was built in two stages, both within the Iron Age. The first part of the system was probably begun in the Iron I period. It consists of a long spiral staircase dug to reach a deep pool of groundwater within the city walls. The second system was designed slightly later, perhaps to enhance the pool's water supply. This system involves a stepped tunnel whose mouth is inside the city. The tunnel was cut down to a water chamber that, in turn, had a feeder tunnel connecting it to an underground spring. The water chamber had another point of access in addition to the tunnels, in the form of a door that led outside the city walls and could be sealed in times of siege. [See Water Tunnels.]

A winery was discovered that belongs to the eighth and seventh centuries BCE. It contained many wine presses, channels, and basins, as well as sixty-three large vats, cut deep into the limestone. The vats were used as wine cellars for temperature control and once contained hundreds of storage jars as evidenced by the broken jar fragments as well as one complete jar that were found. Much of the wine produced at Gibeon was probably exported; many jar handles inscribed with the name gb῾n were found in this industrial area.

There is very little evidence for occupation at Gibeon between the end of the Iron Age and the Roman period. In the Roman period, however, although the site was reoccupied it was not fortified. Excavation of the later remains revealed baths and an elaborate columbarium tomb.


  • Eshel, Hanan. “The Late Iron Age Cemetery of Gibeon.” Israel Exploration Journal 37 (1987): 1–17.
  • Pritchard, James B. The Water System of Gibeon. Philadelphia, 1961.
  • Pritchard, James B. Gibeon Where the Sun Stood Still. Princeton, 1962.
  • Pritchard, James B. The Bronze Age Cemetery at Gibeon. Philadelphia, 1963.
  • Pritchard, James B. Winery, Defenses, and Soundings at Gibeon. Philadelphia, 1964.
  • Pritchard, James B. “Gibeon.” In The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, pp. 511–514. Jerusalem and New York, 1993.

Rachel S. Hallote