Archaeologists in Israel have discovered a biblical fortress that was built more than 3,200 years ago.
It's believed the Ancient Egyptians and Canaanites – enemies of the Israelites in the Bible – built the military structure in the middle of the 12th century BC to keep out the marauding Philistines.
The building was found by teenagers volunteering with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) for an excavation near Kibbutz Galon about 70km south of Jerusalem.
Dubbed Galon Fortress, the structure measures nearly 18m by 18m and has watchtowers in each of its four corners.
Meanwhile a threshold at the entrance is carved from a massive rock weighing three metric tonnes.
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The fortress also features a courtyard paved with slab stones. Archaeologists found hundreds of ancient pottery vessels inside the rooms, some still whole, which were likely used in religious ceremonies.
The IAA says the structure highlights the unrest going on in Israel in the 12th century BC — the time when Bible characters Samson and Deborah are thought to have existed.
The Ancient Egyptians ruled the area until the Israelites and Philistines arrived, forcing the construction of defensive structures like the Galon Fortress.
The ancient Israelites were living in non-fortified settlements in the Judean Mountains at the time, while the Philistines were accumulating power in the west. As they tried to conquer more land in the Levant they had run-ins with the Egyptians and Canaanites.
"It seems that Galon fortress was built as a Canaanite/Egyptian attempt to cope with the new geopolitical situation," said IAA archeologists Saar Ganor and Itamar Weissbein in a statement.
The fortress was "built in a strategic location, from which it is possible to watch the main road that went along the Guvrin river — a road connecting the coastal plain to the Judea plains".
In the middle of the 12th century BC the geopolitical situation changed dramatically with the departure of the Egyptians, which left many Canaanite cities undefended and allowed the Philistines to swoop in.
Talila Lifshitz, director of the community and forest department in the southern region of the Jewish National Fund, says the discovery of Galon Fortress "provides a fascinating glimpse into the story of a relatively unknown period in the history of the country".
The fortress is now open to the public, due to a collaboration between the IAA and the Jewish National Fund.
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