Archaeologists in Israel have found remains which may be the biblical City of King David, the first evidence that the ancient Jewish empire actually existed.
The bible refers to a powerful 10th century B.C. Kingdom of David, Israel's second king, stretching from Egypt to the Euphrates, but little evidence of its existence has ever been found.
Now, an archaeological discovery at Khirbet Qeiyafa, in Elah Valley, 30 km from Jerusalem, appears to show signs of a Jewish settlement.
Professor Yosef Garfinkel, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said that evidence found at the site included a single pottery fragment with an inscription believed to be an early form of Hebrew and olive pits dated as 3,000 years old.
He said: "The buildings and the city wall are abutting each other. This is a typical Judan urban concept."
Garfinkel added: "We do have animal bones. Thousands of animal bones were on site. We have sheep, cattle and goats. But we have no pigs at all. In Canaanite and Philistine cities you will find up to 20% pig bones."
Only 10% of the site has been excavated so far, so more significant finds are still likely.
We are not talking about some great empire ruled from a wonderful capital
--Professor Israel Finkelstein, Tel Aviv University
The Kingdom of David was described in the bible as the first Jewish state and features in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but for decades has been dismissed by archaeologists as just a story.
In a region where history, belief and ideology play such an important role, the discovery is controversial. Other archaeologists dispute the significance of the find.
Professor Israel Finkelstein, of Tel Aviv University, pointed out that the remains are not evidence of a powerful biblical state.
He said: "We are not talking about some great empire ruled from a wonderful capital, the way we look at Assyria in the 9th century B.C., or even the northern Kingdom of Israel in the 9th century B.C. We are here in a formative phase of the rise of Judah."
Finkelstein added: "Khirbet Qeiyafa does not make Judah a great empire with great armies."
Garfinkel argued that even if it was not the great empire of the bible, its existence is significant.
"What people try to do is say that the Kingdom of Judah didn't exist," he said. "What I am saying is that it existed. It's a small one, not so glorified as the Bible presented. But it doesn't mean there was nothing."