The fearsome towering giant of Biblical legend Goliath may only have been slightly taller than a professional basketball player, archaeologists have claimed.
Goliath is described in the Dead Sea Scrolls’ Book of Samuel as an enormous Philistine warrior who was defeated in battle by King David, said to be almost three metres tall.
But archaeological findings claim Goliath was actually about 7ft 10ins — hardly meriting the title of “giant”, although as people tended to be shorter back then perhaps his height was gigantic by comparison.
The tallest NBA players of all time, Manute Bol and Gheorghe Muresan, both measure 7 ft 7. Meanwhile the tallest man in recorded history, Robert Wadlow, would have dwarfed Goliath with his 8ft 11ins height.
Digs at Biblical sites frequently uncover evidence that indicates much of the Bible was based on fact that was embellished or exaggerated for dramatic effect.
Goliath is described as being “four cubits and a span” tall, a description complicated by recent revelations that a cubit meant different things in different regions.
Last year in Tell es-Safi, Israel, a gateway into Goliath’s home city of Gath was unearthed and the walls were found to stand 2.38m apart — seven feet and 10 inches, or the modern equivalent of four cubits and a span.
Archaeologist Jeffrey Chadwick of Brigham Young University in Utah says this is a likely contender for how tall Goliath really was.
Writers of the Old Testament would have wanted to illustrate the sheer size and strength of the warrior and so compared him to Gath’s defensive barrier, Prof Chadwick said at the virtual annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research on November 19.
“The ancient writer used a real architectural metric from that time to describe Goliath’s height, likely to indicate that he was as big and strong as his city’s walls,” he said.
His theory was met with interest by other Biblical experts, although Old Testament scholar Gary Arbino said Prof Chadwick would “need to do more research to move this beyond an intriguing idea”.
He said it would also need to be established that “four cubits and a span” was a common phrase meaning big and strong at the time.
Gath was first occupied by the Canaanites in the early Bronze Age, but was rebuilt by the Philistines more than 1,000 years later.
The city was a major hub of civilisation during the Iron Age about 3,000 years ago — the era in which Goliath supposedly lived.
Scholars remain divided over whether or not David and Goliath really existed and fought.
Archaeologists have been exploring Tell es-Safi for more than 20 years and have uncovered evidence that indicate the “giant” was real, including a pottery fragment inscribed with his name.
There’s also evidence that Gath was destroyed by an invading army about 2,850 years ago.