Digging in the upper Galilee, in what many experts believe to be Bethsaida—a town best-known from the New Testament—archaeologists have discovered a Bronze Age city gate and tower. Rami Arav, the director of the excavation, believes they once protected the capital of the biblical kingdom of Geshur. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:
“In the entire archaeology of the Land of Israel from the 10th through 8th centuries BCE, there are no towers on city walls. Israelites did not have this feature. This is the earliest example,” . . . Arav said.
The Davidic-period gate was in use from around the 11th century BCE to 920 BCE when the settlement was destroyed. The Geshur settlement, which became a fortified city with a well-preserved royal palace, was re-inhabited after 875 BCE. “During this approximately 50-year period, the site was laid in ruin and not inhabited,” according to the dig’s 2016 field report. . . .
At the site, one can see the remains of a 3,500-year-old Bronze Age settlement, in the form of ancient dolmens (tombstones). . . . [T]he excavations have [also] uncovered a prosperous Hellenistic community. In addition to the city gate and wall excavation, this year’s dig also explored under the floors of a Roman temple uncovered in an earlier season. The temple . . . was probably dedicated to the worship of Julia, the daughter of Caesar Augustus, mentioned in Josephus’ Antiquities.
The site also displays a Jewish community in the Hasmonean and Herodian periods, occupation in the early Roman period, settlement in the Mamluk period, and a village in the late Ottoman period. . . .
As early as the late 11th or 10th centuries BCE—the putative time of Kings Saul, David, and Solomon—Bethsaida was the heart of the small kingdom of Geshur, populated by Arameans. Through the politically-motivated marriage of King Talmai of Geshur’s daughter Maachah to King David, [the Hebrew Bible states], Bethsaida allied itself with the Davidic monarchy. . . . Maachah was the mother of Absalom, who murdered his half-brother Amnon and fled to his mother’s homeland, Geshur. Ties were renewed when Absalom’s daughter, [also named] Maachah, married Solomon’s son Rehoboam, king of Judah.