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Tel Balata in Wikipedia
Tell Balata (Arabic: تل بلاطة) is the site of the remains of an ancient city located in the
Palestinian city of Nablus in the West Bank. The site is listed by UNESCO as part of the
Inventory of Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites of Potential Outstanding Universal Value in the
Palestinian Territories. Experts estimate that the towers and buildings at the site date back
5,000 years to the Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages.
Traditionally, the site has been associated with biblical Shechem, based on circumstantial evidence
such as its location and preliminary evidence of habitation during the late Bronze and early Iron
Ages. No inscriptional evidence to support this conclusion has been found in situ, and other
sites have also been identified as the possible site of biblical Shechem; for example, Yitzhak
Magen locates it nearby on Mount Gerizim itself.
Tell is the Hebrew and Arabic word for an archaeological mound. Balata is the name of the
ancient Arab village located on the tell, and of the adjacent Palestinian refugee camp of Balata
established in 1950. The name was preserved by local residents and used to refer both to the
village and the hill (and later on, the refugee camp).
One theory holds that balata is a derivation of the Aramaic word Balut, meaning acorn (or in
Arabic, oak); another theory holds that it is a derivation of the Byzantine-Roman era, from the
Greek word platanos, meaning terebinth, a type of tree that grew around the spring of Balata.
Tell Balata lies in a mountain pass between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, a location fits well with
the geographical description provided for Shechem in the Bible. The Palestinian village of Salim
(biblical Salem) is located 4.5 kilometers (3 mi) to the west. The built-up area of Balata, a
Palestinian village and suburb of Nablus, covers about one-third of the tell, and overlooks a vast
plain to the east.
Excavations were conducted at Tell Balata by the American Schools of Oriental Research between 1956
and 1964 when the West Bank was under the rule of Jordan. Archaeologists who took part in this
expedition included Paul and Nancy Lapp, Albert Glock, Lawrence Toombs, Edward Campbell, Robert
Bull, Joe Seeger, and William G. Dever, among others. Further excavations are to be undertaken
by Palestinian archaeologists along with students from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands
as part of a joint effort funded by the Dutch government.
A 2002 final published report on the stratigraphic and architectural evidence at Tell Balata
indicates that there was a break in occupation between the end of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1150 BC)
through to the early Iron Age II (c. 975 BC). A small quadrangular altar discovered in Tell
Balata, similar to ones found in other Iron Age sites such as Tel Arad and Tel Dan, may have been
used for burning incense.
One of the oldest coins discovered in Palestine was an electrum Greek Macedonian coin, dated to
circa 500 BC, found at Tell Balata. There is evidence that the site was inhabited in the
Hellenistic period until the end of the 2nd century BC. This Hellenistic era city was founded
in the late 4th century BC and extended over an area of 6 hectares. The built structure shows
evidence of considerable damage dated to the 190s BC, and attributed to Antiochus III's conquest of
Palestine. Habitation continued until the final destruction of the city at this site in the late
2nd century BC. While this site was previously thought to be the site of the Samaritan city of
Shechem said by Josephus to have been destroyed by John Hyrcanus I, Y. Magen places locates that
city nearby, on Mount Gerizim at a site covering an area of 30 hectares.
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