One of the most important and mysterious biblical relics is the subject of a major new archaeological dig at Kiryat Ye’arim, near Jerusalem.
The Ark of the Covenant first appears in the Book of Exodus, when Moses is instructed to build a container for the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written.
It then appears prominently throughout several books of the Bible as a source of miracles before apparently being looted by the Babylonians as detailed in an ancient Greek translation of the third Book of Ezra, 1 Esdras,
And they took all the holy vessels of the Lord, both great and small, with the vessels of the ark of God, and the king's treasures, and carried them away into Babylon
— 1 Esdras 1:54
Several theories have been offered for its disappearance and current location, with claims made for a secret resting places on Mount Nebo, in Ethiopia and even Warwickshire. But a team led by Israel Finkelstein and Christophe Nicolle from Tel Aviv University and Thomas Römer from the College de France seems confident of making a major discovery on the site of the ancient temple at Kiryat Ye’arim.
“The place is important for several reasons,” Finkelstein told The Times of Israel. “It’s a large, central site in the Jerusalem hills that hasn’t been studied until now. It may be the only key site in Judah that hasn’t undergone a systematic archaeological excavation.”
The dig is set to commence in early August and continue through September.
Kiryat Ye’arim is mentioned in the Book of Samuel as a place where the Ark of the Covenant was stored at for 20 years after it was returned to the Israelites by the Philistines.
While it is later described as having been then transported by King David to Jerusalem,
Finkelstein still believes that the site may still be important in Ark history.
The likelihood of discovering a Jewish artefact of unparalleled historical and theological importance remains low, but nevertheless the dig may well produce new and valuable information about the history of Iron Age Judah.