Look at the road leading to this ancient gate; now picture a woman pregnant with her fourth child, rubbing her belly as her family walks up the road towards the gate of the city the Israelites called Dan. Three children scamper around her husband, wide-eyed as they take in the sights of the spice merchants from the East, the donkeys laden with ripe dates, the traders with their bundles of brightly-colored scarves for the market. The woman's stomach grumbles as the odors of the freshly baked bread and savory meats waft from the city's market. Tonight the family will rest and fill their bellies!
What sights these ancient gates must have seen--this family and more like them, travelers from distant lands, and even warriors as they chased their foes. This city of Dan, known as Laish or Lesham to the Canaanites, was the largest city in the area, situated on the crossroads with a fertile valley around it. The gate stood on the eastern side of the city and boasted beautiful triple arches well before the time that the Romans are known to have used them. It may have been built in the style of the Hiksos, and ancient Egyptian tribe that is known to have come to this area. This particular gate was built in the eighteenth century BCE from sundried bricks, and it rose some 7 meters high with walls that were 10 to 15 meters high.
In the fifteenth century BCE, when Abraham was said to have chased the four kings to Dan after they took his relative Lot and Lot's possessions, this would have been the city gate to greet Abraham. This gate would have seen the Israelites conquer the land of Canaan. However, the brick construction proved to be relatively fragile in the local climate, so the Israelites buried the gate sometime between the twelfth and tenth centuries BCE so they could build a more durable stone gate above this brick gate. It is partly because the gate was buried that is was preserved some 3700 years to become one of the oldest know structures to have been excavated.
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