Archaeology of Israel

The archaeology of Israel is researched intensively in the universities of the region and also attracts considerable international interest on account of the region's Biblical links.

Excavation in Israel continues at a relatively rapid pace and is conducted according to generally high standards. Excavators return each year to a number of key sites that have been selected for their potential scientific and cultural interest. Current excavated sites of importance include Ashkelon, Hazor, Megiddo, Gamla and Rehov.

Recent issues center on the veracity of such artifacts as the Jehoash Inscription and the James Ossuary, as well as the validity of whole chronological schemes. William G. Dever, Amihai Mazar, Ze'ev Herzog and Israel Finkelstein represent leading figures in the debate over the nature and chronology of the United Monarchy.

Archaeological periods

The archaeological periods of the area have been established as follows::"PREHISTORIC PERIOD"::Neolithic Period 8500-4300 BC::Chalcolithic Period 4300-3300 BC:"BIBLICAL PERIOD"Dates for Biblical Period follow Amihai Mazar, "Archaeology of the Land of the Bible" (New York: Doubleday 1990). ISBN 0-385-23970-X.] ::Bronze Age 3300-1200 BC:::"Early Bronze Age I (EB I)" 3330-3050 BC:::"Early Bronze Age II-III (EB II-III)" 3050-2300 BC:::"Early Bronze Age IV/Middle Bronze Age I (EB IV/MB I)" 2300-2000 BC:::"Middle Bronze Age IIA (MB IIA)" 2000-1750 BC:::"Middle Bronze Age IIB (MB IIB)" 1800-1550 BC:::"Late Bronze Age I-II (LB I-II)" 1550-1200 BC::Iron Age 1200-539 BC:::"Iron Age I (IA I) (Judges)" 1200-1000 BC:::"Iron Age IIA (IA IIA) (United Monarchy)" 1000-925 BC:::"Iron Age IIB-C (IA IIB-C) (Divided Monarcy)" 925-586 BC:::"Iron Age III (Neo-Babylonian Period)" 586-539 BC::Persian Period 539-333 BC:"CLASSICAL PERIOD"::Hellenistic Period 333-165 BC::Maccabean/Hasmonean Period 165-63 BC::Roman Period 63 BC-330AD:::"Early Roman Period (Herodian Period) (New Testament Period)" 63 BC-70AD:::"Middle Roman Period [ What is here called the "Middle Roman" Period is called either "Late Roman" or "Early Roman" depending on a scholar's viewpoint. The end of this intermediate period marks the end of Jewish civilization in Judea but its beginning marks the beginning of Rabbinic Judaism through Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai in the city of Yavne.] (Yavne Period)" 70-135AD:::"Late Roman Period (Mishnaic Period)" 135-200AD:::"Late Roman Period (Talmudic Period)" 200-330AD::Byzantine Period 330-638AD:"ISLAMIC PERIOD"::Arab Caliphate Period 638-1099AD:::"Umayyad Period" 638-750AD:::"Abbasid Period" 750-1099AD::Crusader Period 1099-1244AD:::"Kingdom of Jerusalem Period" 1099-1187AD:::"Ayyubid Period" 1187-1244AD:::("Mamluk Period" 1244-1291AD)::Mamluk Period 1244-1517AD::Ottoman Period 1517-1917AD:"MODERN PERIOD"::British Mandate Period 1917-1948AD::Israeli Period 1948-Present


The Neolithic period appears to have begun when the peoples of the Natufian culture, which spread across present-day Syria, Palestine, Israel and Lebanon, began to practice agriculture. This Neolithic Revolution has been linked to the cold period known as the Younger Dryas. This agriculture in the Levant is the earliest known to have been practiced.

Bronze Age

The Bronze Age is sometimes called the "Canaanite period" by Israeli archaeologists.

Early Bronze Age

Middle Bronze Age

Late Bronze Age

The Late Bronze Age is characterized by individual city-states, which from time to time were dominated by Egypt until the last invasion of Egypt by Merenptah in 1207 BCE. The Amarna Letters are an example of a specific period during the Late Bronze Age when the vassal kings of the Levant corresponded with their overlords in Egypt

Israelite period (Iron age) 8th - 7th century BCE

There has been a great deal of interest among archaeologists and lay people as to whether the archaeological evidence in this period confirms or denies the historical accounts in the Hebrew Bible. Over the past thirty years, some archaeologists have led an effort to divorce archaeology in Israel from the biblical texts. Reflecting the change in biblical studies from historical reconstruction to textual criticism, the archaeology has become more sociological and processual and less a search for the realia of biblical life.

The earlier assumptions of people such as Albright and Wright who faithfully accepted the biblical events as history have now been seriously questioned. The work of the so-called "minimalists" such as Lemche, Thompson, Davies and prominent Israeli archaeologists, have led to a re-examination of what we can really say we know about the period. Apart from certain externally attested events (e.g., siege of Lachish), the answer is very little. Other authors such as Jamieson-Drake and Israel Finkelstein [ [ Israel Finkelstein, Professor of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University Web page] ] have suggested that the empires of David and Solomon never existed - Judah not being in a position to support an extended state until at least the start of the 8th century. (Nevertheless, Finklestein accepts the existence of King David or the Kingdom of Judah, but doubts their chronology, significance and influence as described in the Bible.) [ [ Shifting Ground In The Holy Land] ]

The "minimalist" view suggests that the term "Israelite Period" is misleading, reflecting modern Israeli nationalistic sentiments rather than historical fact, and therefore carrying political connotations and implications, especially regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This view criticizes historical revisionism as a tool in promoting the Israeli side of that dispute. However, the minimalists have also been accused of historical revisionism in promoting the Palestinian side of the dispute.

Despite an on-going debate of the issue, the prevailing view still holds that the Bible is not wholly a work of fiction, and that the Israelite Archaeological Period corresponds (through its artifacts) with some major Biblical events and figures.

The non-"minimalist" archaeologists do not claim that all or even most of the Bible is historically accurate, merely that the Bible reflects, at the very least, the spiritual culture of the Israelites in the 1200–539 BCE period. They claim that some of the major non-supernatural Biblical story elements correspond to physical artifacts and other archaeological findings. Examples include mention of the Hebrew Kingdoms of David and Solomon in inscriptions that were traced to non-Hebrew cultural origin, as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls and House of David inscription, both found in Israel. [ [ King David and Jerusalem: Myth and Reality] ] [ [,9171,983854-6,00.html Are The Bible's Stories True?] ] [ [ Top Ten Archaeological Findings of the 20th Century Relating to the Biblical World] ] Much of the debate remains centered on the chronology of the events.

This period marks the weakening of regional empires and the strengthening of local powers such as Israel, Judah and the kingdom of the Philistines. During this period, settlement of Israel led to the foundation of the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. Much of the spiritual (although not necessarily chronological/historical) content of this period is described in the Old Testament. Later in the period, the Assyrian and Babylonian empires put an end to the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel, culminating in the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.

The Israelite period is characterized by large numbers of urban dwellings and a new local culture. The rich and diverse archaeological findings attest to strong international links and trade relations. The abundance of writings found indicate a broad distribution of knowledge among common people of ancient Israel and not just scribes, a unique phenomenon in the ancient world.

Persian period

Cyrus II of Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire by 539 BC and incorporated the entire area into the Persian Empire. Cyrus organized the empire into provincial administrations called satrapies. The administrators of these provinces, called "satraps", had considerable independence from the emperor. The Persians allowed the Jews to return to the regions that the Babylonians had exiled them from.

The exiled Jews who returned to their traditional home encountered the Jews that had remained, surrounded by a much larger non-Jewish majority. One group of note (that exists up until this day) were the Samaritans, who adhered to most features of the Jewish rite and claimed to be descendants of the Assyrian Jews. For various reasons (at least some of which seem to be political) the returning exiles did not recognize the Samaritans as Jews. The return of the exiles from Babylon reinforced the Jewish population, which gradually became more dominant.

Hellenistic period

In the early 330s BC, Alexander the Great conquered the region, beginning an important period of Hellenistic influence in Palestine.

After Alexander's death in 323 BC, his empire was partitioned. The competing Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires occupied various portions of the eastern Mediterranean. The Jews were divided between the Hellenists who supported the adoption of Greek culture, and those who believed in keeping to the traditions of the past, which led to the Maccabean revolt of the 2nd century BC.

Roman period

Byzantine period

Archaeology in Israeli culture

Each university in Israel possesses a strong department or institute of archaeology and is involved in research, excavation, conservation and training.

Israeli archaeologists frequently achieve a high profile, both at home and internationally.

Yigael Yadin, one-time Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, was one of the more influential among the older generation of Israeli archaeologists. Eilat Mazar, granddaughter of the pioneering Israeli archaeologist Benjamin Mazar, has emerged as a frequent spokesperson for concerns regarding the archaeology of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Stemming from its Biblical possibilities, controversy remains a hallmark of Israeli archaeology. Recent issues centered on the veracity of such artefacts as the Tel Dan Stela, the Jehoash Inscription and the James Ossuary,Fact|date=February 2007 as well as the validity of whole chronological schemes. Amihai Mazar and Israel Finkelstein represent leading figures in the debate over the nature and chronology of the United Monarchy.

Excavation in Israel continues at a relatively rapid pace and is conducted according to generally high standards. Excavators return each year to a number of key sites that have been selected for their potential scientific and cultural interest. Current excavated sites of importance include Tell es-Safi/Gath, Ashkelon, Hazor, Megiddo, Gamla and Rehov.

Archaeological sites

*Tsipori ("Sepphoris") [ Hebrew University in Jerusalem]
*Yavne ("Iamnia") [ Tel-Aviv University]

Ongoing excavations

[ IAA maps of ongoing excavations in Israel]

Damage to archaeological sites

"See also": Damage to archaeological sites in the article of Syro-Palestinian archaeology

In 2000, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) charged the Sea of Galilee Drainage Authority (KDA) with causing "serious and irreversible damage" to Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, a 780,000-year-old site located on the banks of the Jordan river in northern Israel. First discovered in the 1930s, Gesher had been the site of several excavations that provided archaeologists with crucial information about how and when Homo erectus moved out of Africa, most likely through the Levantine corridor that includes Israel. "One of the rarest prehistoric sites in the world," it featured a remarkable level of organic preservation that archaeologists had not encountered at any other contemporary site in Europe or Asia.

While the KDA had procured permission from the IAA to work in a limited area to alleviate the regular flooding of farmland in the adjacent Hula Valley under the supervision of an IAA inspector, evidently frustrated with the slow pace of the work, they "entered the site at nighttime and conducted work in all areas, willfully breaking the law."

Several hundred meters of the 1.5-mile-long site were obliterated by bulldozers, and fossil remains, manmade stone artifacts, and organic material were destroyed. According to Israeli archaeologists, the material cannot be studied scientifically now because it is all out of context.

The damage at Gesher was not widely reported by the Israeli media and public. Gideon Avni, an IAA archaeologist said, "We tried to get the story on the front page of newspapers [...] But this is part of the sociology of Israel. The interest in biblical archaeology is greater than that for earlier or later periods." Ofer Bar-Yosef, a Harvard pre-historian agreed, stating, "I am quite sure that i [f] this was a matter of a biblical- or a Christian-period site, many more voices would have been raised in protest."cite web|title=Bulldozers in the Night|date=February 29 2000|author=Kristin M. Romey|publisher=Archaeology: A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America|url=|accessdate=2008-02-16]

Notable findings and sites


Archaeological excavation in Ashkelon began in 1985, led by Lawrence StagerRyan, 2003, p. 105.] The site contains 50 feet of accumulated rubble from successive Canaanite, Philistine, Phoenician, Iranian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, and Crusader occupation. Major findings include shaft graves of pre-Phoenician Canaanites,Fact|date=February 2008 a Bronze Age vault and ramparts, and a silvered bronze statuette of a bull calf, assumed to be of the Canaanite period.cite journal|title=Recent Discoveries at Ashkelon|author=David Schloen|publisher=The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago|journal=The Oriental Institute News and Notes|volume=No. 145|date=Spring 1995|url=]

Beit Alfa

One of the earliest digs by Israeli archaeologists, Beit Alfa is the site of an ancient Byzantine-era synagogue, constructed in the fifth century CE, with a three-paneled mosaic floor. An Aramaic inscription states that the mosaic was made at the time of Justin (apparently Justin I), who ruled from 518 to 527 CE. The mosaic is one of the most important discovered in Israel. Each of its three panels depicts a scene - the Holy Ark, the zodiac, and the story of the sacrifice of Isaac. The zodiac has the names of the twelve signs in Hebrew. In the center is Helios, the sun god, being whisked away in his chariot by four galloping horses. The four women in the corners of the mosaic represent the four seasons.cite web|title=Beit Alfa Synagogue National Park (on Kibbutz Hefzibah)|publisher=Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority|accessdate=2008-02-26|url=]

Carmel Caves

Misliya Cave, southwest of Mt. Carmel, has been excavated by teams of anthropologists and archaeologists from the Archaeology Department of the University of Haifa and Tel Aviv University since 2001. In 2007, they unearthed artifacts indicative of what could be the earliest known Homo Sapiens. The teams uncovered hand-held stone tools and blades as well as animal bones, dating to 250,000 years ago, at the time of the Mousterian culture of Neanderthals in Europe. No human skeleton has yet been found.cite web|title=Did prehistoric man come from Haifa?|author=Fadi Eyadat|date=10 September 2007|url=|accessdate=2008-02-24]

Beth She'arim

Beth She'arim is an archeological site of a Jewish town and necropolis, near the town of Kiryat Tiv'on, 20 km east of Haifa in the southern foothills of the Lower Galilee. Beth She'arim was excavated by Benjamin Mazarcite web|title=Obituary: Benjamin Mazar|publisher=The Independent|date=September 15 1995|author=Hyam Maccoby|url=|accessdate=2008-02-26] and Nahman Avigad in the 1930s and 1950s. Most of the remains date from the 2nd to 4th century CE and include the remains of a large number of individuals buried in the more than twenty catacombs of the necropolis. Together with the images on walls and sarcophagi, the inscriptions show that this was a Jewish necropolis. Levine, 1998, p. 7.]


Tell es-Safi/Gath is one of the largest pre-Classical sites in Israel, situated approximately halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon, on the border between coastal plain and the Judean foothils (Shephelah). The site was settled from Prehistoric thru Modern times, and was of particular importance during the Bronze and Iron Ages, and during the Crusader period. The site is identified as Canaanite and Philistine Gath, and during the Iron Age was one of the five main cities (the Pentapolis) of the Philistines. The site was excavated briefly in 1899 by the British archaeologists Frederick Jones Bliss and Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister, and since 1996, by a team from Bar-Ilan University directed by Aren Maeir. Among the noteworthy finds from the ongoing excavations are the impressive late 9th cent. BCE destruction level (Stratum A3), apparently evidence of the destruction of Gath by Hazael of Aram (see II Kings 12:18), a unique siege system relating to this event that surrounds the site (the earliest known siege system in the world!), and a 10th/9th cent. BCE inscription written in archaic alphabetic script, mentioning two names of Indo-European nature, somewhat reminiscent of the etymological origins of the name Goliath.


Tel Gezer is a strategically located archaeological site which sits on the western flank of the Shephelah, overlooking the coastal plain of Israel, near the junction between Via Maris and the trunk road leading to Jerusalem. The tel consists of two mounds with a saddle between them, spanning roughly 30 acres. A dozen inscribed boundary stones found in the vicinity verify the identification of the mound as Gezer, making it the first positively identified Biblical city. Gezer is mentioned in several ancient sources, including the Hebrew Bible and the Amarna letters. The biblical references describe it as one of Solomon's royal store cities.cite web|title=Fieldwork: AFOB Online Listing - Tel Gezer Archaeological Project and Field School|publisher=Archaeological Institute of America|date=2008|accessdate=2008-02-26|url=] . Gezer was excavated by R.A.S. Macalister in 1902 and 1907. Major findings include a soft limestone tablet, named the Gezer calendar, which describes the agricultural chores associated with each month of the year. The calendar is written in paleo-Hebrew script, and is one of the oldest known examples of Hebrew writing, dating to the 10th century BCE. Also found was a six-chambered gate similar to those found at Hazor and Megiddo, and ten monumental megaliths.


Mamshit , the Nabatean city of Memphis (also known as Kurnub in Arabic), was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO on June 2005. The archaeological excavation at Mamshit uncovered the largest hoard of coins ever found in Israel : 10500 silver coins in a bronze jar, dating to the 3rd century CEcite journal|title=Review: Negev, "The Architecture of Mampsis, 2"|author=Shimon Dar|journal=The Jewish Quarterly Review|volume=Vol. 83, No. 1-2|date=July-October 1992|pages=pp. 204–207|url=|accessdate=2008-02-26] . Among the Nabatean cities found in the Negev (Avdat, Haluza, Shivta) Mamshit is the smallest (10 acres), but the best preserved and restored. Entire streets have survived intact, and numerous Nabatean buildings with open rooms, courtyards, and terraces have been restored. Most of the buildings were built in the late Nabatean period, in the 2nd century CE, after the Nabatean kingdom was annexed to Rome in 106 CE.


A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001, Masada is the site of ancient palaces and fortifications in the South District of Israel on top of an isolated rock plateau, or large mesa, on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. According to Josephus, a first-century Jewish-Roman historian, Herod the Great fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt. Josephus also writes that in 66 CE, at the beginning of the First Jewish-Roman War against the Roman Empire, a group of Judaic extremist rebels called the Sicarii took Masada from the Roman garrison stationed there. The site of Masada was identified in 1842 and extensively excavated between 1963 and 1965 by an expedition led by Israeli archeologist Yigael Yadin. Due to the remoteness from human habitation and the arid environment, the site has remained largely untouched by humans or nature during the past two millennia. Many of the ancient buildings have been restored, as have the wall-paintings of Herod's two main palaces, and the Roman-style bathhouses that he built. A synagogue thought to have been used by the Jewish rebels has also been identified and restored.Ferguson, 2003, p. 574.] Inside the synagogue, an ostracon bearing the inscription "me'aser kohen" ("tithe for the priest") was found, as were fragments of two scrolls.cite web|publisher=Oriental Institute Research Archives|title=A Structural Analysis of Ben Sira 40:11- 44:15|author=Eric Reymond|year=1998|url=|accessdate=2008-02-26] Also found were eleven small ostraca, each bearing a single name. One reads "ben Yair" and could be short for Eleazar ben Yair, the commander of the fortress.Ego et al., 1999, p.230] Excavations also uncovered the remains of 28 skeletons.cite web|title=The Credibility of Josephus|author=Shaye Cohen|url=|publisher=PBS|accessdate=2008-02-26] Carbon dating of textiles found in the cave indicate they are contemporaneous with the period of the Revolt.cite web|title=Masada Cave 2001-2002|author=James D. Tabor|url=|date=1996-1998|publisher=James D. Tabor|accessdate=2008-02-26] The remnants of a Byzantine church dating from the 5th and 6th centuries CE, have also been excavated on the top of Masada.

Old City of Acre

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001cite web|url=|title=Old City of Acre|publisher=UNESCO|date=2001|accessdate=2008-02-26] , Acre's Old City has been a site of vast archeological excavations and preservations of ancient structures since the 1990s. The major find has been an underground passageway leading to a 13th century CE fortress of the Knights Templar. The excavated remains of the Crusader town, dating from 1104 to 1291 CE, are well preserved, and are on display above and below today's street level.


Rehov is an important Bronze and Iron Age archaeological site approximately five kilometers south of Beit She'an and three kilometers west of the Jordan River. The site represents one of the largest ancient city mounds in Israel, its surface area comprising 120,000 m² in size, divided into an "Upper City" (40,000 m²) and a "Lower City" (80,000 m²). Archaeological excavations have been conducted at Rehov since 1997, under the directorship of Amihai Mazar. The first eight seasons of excavations revealed successive occupational layers from the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age I (12th - 11th centuries BCE).cite web|publisher=The Hebrew University of Jerusalem: The Institute of Archaeology|url=|title=The Tel Rehov Excavations - 2008|accessdate=2008-02-28] The Iron Age II levels of the site have emerged as a vitally important component in the current debate regarding the chronology of the United Monarchy of Israel.cite web|author=Jerry Barach|publisher=Hebrew University of Jerusalem|date=April 22 2003|url=|title=Hebrew University Excavations Strengthen Dating of Archaeological Findings to David, Solomon|accessdate=2008-02-26] In September 2007, 30 intact beehives dated to the mid-10th century BCE to the early 9th century BCE were found.cite web|url=|title=Tel Rehov Excavations - 2007|publisher=The Hebrew University of Jerusalem: The Institute of Archaeology Hebrew University|accessdate=2008-02-26] The beehives are evidence of an advanced honey-producing beekeeping (apiculture) industry 3000 years ago in the city, then thought to have a population of about 2000. The beehives, made of straw and unbaked clay, were found in orderly rows of 100 hives. Organic material (wheat found next to the beehives) was dated using carbon-14 radiocarbon dating at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Also found alongside the hives was an altar decorated with fertility figurines.

Tel Arad

Tel Arad is located west of the Dead Sea, about ten kilometers west of modern Arad. Excavations at the site conducted by Israeli archaeologist Yohanan Aharoni in 1962cite journal|title=Arad: Its Inscriptions and Temple|author=Yohanan Aharoni|journal=The Biblical Archaeologist|volume=Vol. 31, No. 1|date=February 1968|url=|accessdate=2008-02-26|pages=pp. 1–32] have unearthed an extensive early Bronze Age settlement that was completely deserted and destroyed by 2700 BCE. The site was then apparently deserted until a new settlement was founded on the southeastern ridge of the ancient city during the Iron Age II.Negev and Gibson, 2001, p. 43.] The major find was a garrison-town known as 'The Citadel', constructed in the time of King David and Solomon.Bromiley, 1995, p. 229.] An Israelite temple, the earliest ever to be discovered in an excavation, dates back to the mid-10th century BCE. Among the artifacts unearthed at the site are ostraca dating to the mid-7th century BCE, one of which refers to the "House of Yahweh", which is thought to be the first and only direct reference to the Temple at Jerusalem in a Hebrew inscription. New excavations on the upper hill and within the temple began in 2005 by archaeologist Yehuda Goverin.

Tel Be'er Sheva

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005, Tel Be'er Sheva is an archaeological site in southern Israel, believed to be the remains of the biblical town of Be'er Sheva. Archaeological finds indicate that the site was inhabited from the Chalcolithic period, around 4000 BCE [ Be'er Sheva] ] The Holy Land, Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, p.438 Oxford University Press, 1998] , to the sixteenth century CE. This was probably due to the abundance of underground water, as evidenced by the numerous wells in the area. Excavated by Yohanan Aharoni and Ze'ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University, the settlement itself is dated to the early Israelite period.cite journal|title=Untitled Review of "Beer-Sheba I: Excavations at Tel Beer-Sheba 1969-1971 Seasons" by Yohanan Aharoni|author=John S. Holladay, Jr.|journal=Journal of Biblical Literature| volume=Vol. 96, No. 2|date=June 1977|pages=pp. 281–284|url=|accessdate=2008-02-26|month=Jun|year=1977|issue=2] Probably populated in the 12th century BCE, the first fortified settlement dates to 1000 BCE. The city was likely destroyed by Sennacherib in 700 BCE, and after a habitation hiatus of three hundred years, there is evidence of remains from the Persian, Hellenistic, Roman and Early Arab periods.Freedman, 2000, p. 161.] Major finds include an elaborate water system and a huge cisterncite web|url=|title=Tel Beersheva National Park|accessdate=2008-02-26|publisher=Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority] carved out of the rock beneath the town, and a large horned altar which was reconstructed using several well-dressed stones found in secondary use in the walls of a later building. The altar attests to the existence of a temple or cult center in the city which was probably dismantled during the reforms of King Hezekiah.Murphy-O'Connor, 1998, p. 438.]

Tel Dan

Tel Dan, previously named Tell el-Qadi, is a mound where a city once stood, located at the northern tip of modern-day Israel. Finds at the site date back to the Neolithic era circa 4500 BCE, and include 0.8 meter wide walls and pottery shards. The most important find is the Tel Dan Stele, a black basalt stele, whose fragments were discovered in 1993 and 1994. The stele was erected by an Aramaean king and contains an Aramaic inscription to commemorate his victory over the ancient Hebrews. It has generated much excitement because the inscription includes the letters 'ביתדוד', Hebrew for "house of David".cite web|publisher=Department of Jewish Studies at McGill University|title=Down with History, Up with Reading: The Current State of Biblical Studies|author=Gary A. Rendsburg|url=|accessdate=2008-02-26] Proponents of that reading argue that it is the first time that the name "David" has been recognized at any archaeological site, lending evidence for the Bible account of David's kingdom. Others read the Hebrew letters 'דוד' as "beloved," "uncle" "kettle," or "a god named Dod," (all of which are possible readings of vowel-less Hebrew), and argue this is not a reference to Biblical David.

Tel Hazor

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005, Tel Hazor has been excavated repeatedly since 1955. Findings include an ancient Canaanite city, which experienced a catastrophic fire in the sometime in the 13th century BCE. The date and causes of the violent destruction of Canaanite Hazor have been an important issue ever since the first excavations of the site. One school, represented by Yigael Yadin, Yohanan Aharoni, and Amnon Ben-Tor, dates the destruction to the later half of the 13th century, tying it to biblical descriptions in Joshua which hold the Israelites as responsible for this event. The second school, represented by Olga Tufnell, Kathleen Kenyon, P. Beck and M. Kochavi, and Israel Finkelstein, tends to support an earlier date in the first half of the 13th century, in which case, there is no necessary connection between the destruction of Hazor and the process of Israelite Tribes settlement in Cannan.cite web|title=The Kingdom of Hazor in the Late Bronze Age: Chronological and Regional Aspects of the Material Culture of Hazor and its Settlements|author=Sharon Zuckerman|publisher=Mt. Scopus Radio|] Other findings at the site include a distinctive six chambered gate dating to the Early Iron Age, and pottery features as well as administration buildings dating to either the 10th century under Solomon or, on a lowered chronology, the Omrides in the 9th century.

Tel Megiddo

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005, Tel Megiddo is composed of twenty-six stratified layers of the ruins of ancient cities in a strategic location at the head of a pass through the Carmel Ridge, which overlooks the Valley of Jezreel from the west. Megiddo has been excavated three times. The first excavations were carried out between 1903 and 1905 and a second expedition was carried out in 1925. During these excavation it was discovered that there were twenty levels of habitation, and many of the remains uncovered are preserved at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Yigael Yadin conducted a few small excavations in the 1960s. Since 1994, Megiddo been the subject of biannual excavation campaigns conducted by The Megiddo Expedition of Tel Aviv University, directed by Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin, together with a consortium of international universities. A major find from digs conducted between 1927 and 1934 were the Megiddo Stables – two tripartite structures measuring 21 meters by 11 meters, believed to have been ancient stables capable of housing nearly 500 horses.


Excavations in Tzippori, in the central Galilee region, six kilometers north-northwest of Nazareth, have uncovered a rich and diverse historical and architectural legacy that includes Assyrian, Hellenistic, Judean, Babylonian, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Crusader, Arabic and Ottoman influences. The site is especially rich in mosaics belonging to different periods. Major findings include the remains of a 6th century synagogue, evidence of an interesting fusion of Jewish and pagan beliefs. A Roman villa, considered the centerpiece of the discoveries, which dates to the year 200 CE, was destroyed in the earthquake of 363 CE. The mosaic floor was discovered in August 1987 during an expedition led by Eric and Carol Meyers, of Duke University digging with Ehud Netzer, a locally trained archaeologist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.cite web|title=The Mona Lisa of the Galilee beckons to wannabe archaeologists in ancient Sepphoris|author=Gil Zohar|url=|publisher=Jewish Tribune|date=9 March 2006|accessdate=2008-02-26] . It depicts Dionysus, the god of wine, socializing with Pan and Hercules in several of the 15 panels. In its center is a life-like image of a young lady, possibly Venus, which has been named "The Mona Lisa of the Galilee." Additional finds include a Roman theater on the northern slope of the hill, and the remains of a 5th century public building, with a large and intricate mosaic floor.

Challenges posed by the Arab-Israeli conflict

Two rockets launced by Hezbollah hit a megalithic cemetery near Tel Dan in the Golan Heights, resulting in the postponement of an expedition headed by archaeologist Ryan Byrne at Jeroboam's Altar.cite web|title=Israel-Hezbollah War Endangers Archaeological Sites, Ecosystems|author=Mike Di Paolo|url=|date=15 August 2006|accessdate=2008-02-19]

Archaeology of the Old City of Jerusalem

Contestation over the ownership of the site

Heribert Adam and Kogila Moodley write that both Jews and Muslims have rejected proposals to internationalize Jerusalem, insisting instead on exclusive sovereignty over the city. Exploring the differing claims, they highlight the writings of Neil Silberman, an Israeli archaeologist, who has demonstrated how legitimate archaeological research and preservation efforts have been exploited by both Palestinians and Israelis for partisan ends.Adam and Moodley, 2005, pp. 65-66.] Silberman submits that rather than attempting to understand "the natural process of demolition, eradication, rebuilding, evasion, and ideological reinterpretation that has permitted ancient rulers and modern groups to claim exclusive possession," archaeologists have instead become active participants in the battle over partisan memory. In his opinion, archaeology, a seemingly objective science, has exacerbated, rather than ameliorated the ongoing nationalist dispute. Silberman concludes: "The digging continues. Claims and counterclaims about exclusive historical 'ownership' weave together the random acts of violence of bifurcated collective memory." Adam and Moodley conclude their investigation into this issue by writing that, "Both sides remain prisoners of their mytholgized past."

An archaeological tunnel running the length of the western side of the Temple Mount, as it is known to Jews, or the Haram al-Sharif, as it is known to Muslims, became a serious point of contestation in 1996. The tunnel had been in place for about a dozen years, but open conflict broke out after the government of Benjamin Netanyahu decided to open a new entrance to the tunnel from the Via Dolorosa in the Muslim quarter of the Old City. Palestinians and the Islamic Waqf authorities were outraged that the decision was taken without prior consultation. They claimed that the work threatened the foundations of the compound and those of houses in the Muslim quarter and that it was actually aimed at tunnelling under the holy compound complex to find remains of Solomon's Temple, similar to previous attempts undertaken by Jews in the 1980s. As a result, rioting broke out in Jerusalem and spread to the West Bank, leading to the deaths of 86 Palestinians and 15 Israeli soldiers.Ross, 2007, pp. 156-157.]

Damage to archaeological sites

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and throughout the period of Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem which ended in 1967, Jordanian authorities and military forces undertook a policy described by their military commander as "calculated destruction,"cite web|title=Letter dated 5 March 1968 from the Permament Representative of Israel to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General|url=!OpenDocument|date=6 March 1968|accessdate=2008-02-19|publisher=United Nations] , aimed at the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Jordanian actions were described in a letter to the United Nations by Yosef Tekoa, Israel's permanent representative to the organization at the time, as a "policy of wanton vandalism, desecration and violation," which resulted in the destruction of all but one of 35 Jewish houses of worship. Synagogues were razed or pillaged. Many of them were demolished by explosives, and others subjected to ritual desecration, through the conversion to stables. Gold, 2007, p. 157.] . In the ancient historic Jewish graveyard on the Mount of Olives, tens of thousands of tombstones, some dating from as early as 1 BCE, were torn up, broken or used as flagstones, steps and building materials in Jordanian military installations. Large areas of the cemetery were levelled and turned into parking lots and gas stations. [ [ When Jerusalem was divided] ]

The Old City of Jerusalem and its walls were added to the List of World Heritage Sites in danger in 1982, after it was nominated for inclusion by Jordan.cite web|date=17 January 1983|title=United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Convention Concerning the Protestion of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage|publisher=UNESCO|accessdate=2008-02-20|url=] Noting the "severe destruction followed by a rapid urbanization," UNESCO determined that the site met "the criteriaproposed for the inscription of properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger as they apply to both 'ascertained danger' and 'potential danger'."Work carried out by the Islamic Waqf since the late 1990s to convert two ancient underground structures into a large new mosque on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif damaged archaeological artifacts in Solomon's Stables and Huldah Gates areas.cite web|title=Opinion:Biblical Destruction|author=Hershel Shanks|date=18 July 2008|accessdate=2008-02-19|url=|publisher=Wall Street Journal] cite web|title=Archaeologists Campaign to Stop Desecration of Temple Mount|author=Michele Chabin|date=11 July 2006|url=|accessdate=2008-02-19|publisher=Jewish United Fund] cite web|title=The Destruction of the Temple Mount Antiquities|author=Mark Ami-El|url=|accessdate=2008-02-19|date=1 August 2002|publisher=Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs] From October 1999 to January 2000, the Waqf authorities in Jerusalem opened an emergency exit to the newly renovated underground mosque, in the process digging a pit measuring convert|18000|sqft|m2|0 and convert|36|ft|m|0 deep. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) expressed concern over the damage sustained to Muslim-period structures within the compound as a result of the digging. Jon Seligman, a Jerusalem District archaeologist told "Archaeology" magazine that, "It was clear to the IAA that an emergency exit [at the Marwani Mosque] was necessary, but in the best situation, salvage archaeology would have been performed first."cite journal|title=Jerusalem's Temple Mount Flap|volume=Volume 53 Number 2|date=March-April 2000|author=Kristin M. Romey|journal=Archaeology: A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America|url=|accessdate=2008-02-16] Seligman also said that the lack of archeological supervision "has meant a great loss to all of humanity. It was an archeological crime.".

Some Israeli archaeologists also charged that archaeological material dating to the First Temple Period (ca. 960-586 BC) was destroyed when the thousands of tons of ancient fill from the site were dumped into the Kidron Valley, as well as into Jerusalem's municipal garbage dump, where it mixed with the local garbage, making it impossible to conduct archaeological examination. They further contended that the Waqf was deliberately removing evidence of Jewish remains.cite web|title=In Jerusalem archaeology is politics|author=Paul Reynolds|date=9 February 2007|accessdate=2008-02-15|url=] For example, Dr. Eilat Mazar told Ynet news that the actions by the Waqf were linked to the routine denials of the existence of the Jerusalem Temples by senior officials of the Palestinian Authority. She stated that, "They want to turn the whole of the Temple Mount into a mosque for Muslims only. They don't care about the artifacts or heritage on the site."cite web|title=Archaeologists: Waqf damaging Temple Mount remains|url=,7340,L-3362223,00.html|author=Yaakov Lappin|date=7 February 2007|accessdate=2008-02-15|publisher=Ynet] However, Seligman and Gideon Avni, another Israeli archaeologist, told "Archaeology" magazine that while the fill did indeed contain shards from the First Temple period, they were located in originally unstratified fill and therefore lacked any serious archaeological value.


ee also

*Biblical archaeology
*History of Palestine
*History of Israel

Canaanite period

*Egyptian Empire, Retenu
*Bronze Age

External links

* [ New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land]
* [ Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) (English homepage)]
* 'Producing National identity: Israeli Archaeology museums'.
* [ University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Canaan & Ancient Israel Exhibit)]
* [ Israel Exploration Society]
* [ Israel archaeological sites photos]

Canaanite period

* [ Late Bronze Age II as a period of decline, unrest, disaster, and migration]
* [ Early Israel in Canaan]

Roman period

* [ In the Roman Period Galilee, the vast majority of inhabitants were Jews. They got along sometimes and also fought]

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