Many scholars dismiss David and Solomon as mythical figures, arguing that kingdoms didn't exist in the region during the early Iron Age, when the events in the Bible supposedly took place. By a new discovery in southern Israel suggests there was more political complexity in the 10th century BC than previously thought.
At an ancient site called Khirbet Summeily, an excavation led by Mississippi State University archaeologist James Hardin found six bullae —clay objects used with string to seal official documents. Two of the artifacts still have partial impressions on them, similar to the wax seals that would be used in later periods.
The discovery is described in the latest edition of the peer-reviewed journal, Near Eastern Archaeology. Khirbet Summeily, located at a borderland area between the heartlands of Judah and Philistia, was long assumed to be an Iron Age farmstead. However, according to Hardin:
"Our preliminary results indicated that this site is integrated into a political entity that is typified by elite activities, suggesting that a state was already being formed in the 10th century BC….The fact that these bullae came off of sealed written documents shows that this site —located out on the periphery of pretty much everything— is integrated at a level far beyond subsistence. You have either political or administrative activities going on at a level well beyond those typical of a rural farmstead."
The bullae do not have any writing or symbols that declare "King David was here." However, the finding could lend some support to archaeologists and scholars who believe King David and King Solomon were actual historical figures—or, at the very least, based upon other rulers who lived during the period recounted in the Bible.
Jeff Blakely, a professor of Biblical archaeology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says:
"Generations of scholarship have suggested [that the people of Khirbet Summeily were] farming, but over the past few years, we have slowly realized that humans rarely farmed this region. It was a pasture. Shepherds tended sheep and goats under the protection of their government. Finding the bullae this past summer strongly supports our idea that Khirbet Summeily was a governmental installation."