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Biblical Archeology Free Bible School Course 2, Lesson 2
Milestones in Biblical Archeology
Milestones prior to 1914: Biblical Archaeology is thought have started after publication by Edward Robinson (American professor of Biblical literature; 1794–1863) of his travels through Palestine during the first half of the 19th century (a time when the oldest complete Hebrew scripture only dated to the Middle Ages), which highlighted similarities between modern Arabic place-names and Biblical city names.
The Palestine Exploration Fund sponsored detailed surveys led by Charles Warren during the late 1860s (initially financed by Angela Georgina Burdett-Coutts in 1864 to improve Jerusalem’s sanitary conditions), which culminated with the formal publication of “The Survey of Western Palestine” from 1871–1877.
The highlight of this period was Warren’s work around the Temple Mount of Jerusalem, where he discovered the foundation stones of Herod’s Temple, the first Israelite inscriptions on several jar handles with LMLK seals, and water shafts under the City of David.
1890 Sir W.M.F. Petrie noticed strata exposed by waterflow adjacent to Tell el-Hesi (originally believed to be Biblical Lachish, now probably Eglon) and popularized details of pottery groups excavated therefrom. F.J. Bliss continued digging there in 1891–2.
Subsequent highlights of major sites mentioned in the Bible where excavations spanned more than one season:
- 1898–1900 Frederick J. Bliss and R.A.S. Macalister excavated 4 major sites in the Shephelah region of Israel:
- Tell es-Safi (probably Biblical Gath)
- Tell Zakariya (probably Biblical Azekah)
- Tell ej-Judeideh (possibly Biblical Moresheth-Gath or Libnah)
- Tell Sandahannah (probably Biblical Mareshah)
- 1902–3, 1907–9 R.A.S. Macalister excavated Gezer, where the oldest Hebrew inscription (Gezer Calendar) was found on the surface
- 1902–4 Ernest Sellin excavated Taanach
- 1903–5 Gottlieb Schumacher excavated Megiddo
- 1905–7 Herman Kohl, Ernest Sellin, and Carl Watzinger surveyed ancient synagogues in Galilee
- 1907–9 Ernest Sellin and Carl Watzinger excavated Shechem
- 1908, 1910–1 David G. Lyon, Clarence S. Fisher, and George A. Reisner excavated Samaria
- 1911–3 Duncan Mackenzie excavated Beth Shemesh
Milestones during 1914–1945: Following World War I, during the British Mandate of Palestine, antiquities laws were established for Palestinian territory along with a Department of Antiquities (later to become the modern Israel Antiquities Authority) and the Palestine Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem (now named the Rockefeller Museum).
John Garstang was instrumental in these accomplishments. W.F. Albright dominated the scholarship of this period and had long-lasting influence on Biblical historians based on his analysis of Bronze Age and Iron Age pottery.
- 1921–3, 1925–8, 1930–3 Clarence S. Fisher, Alan Rowe, and Gerald M. Fitzgerald excavated Beth Shean
- 1922–3 William F. Albright excavated Tell el-Ful (probably Biblical Gibeah)
- 1925–39 Clarence S. Fisher, P.L.O. Guy, and Gordon Loud excavated Megiddo
- 1926, 1928, 1930, 1932 William F. Albright excavated Tell Beit Mirsim (possibly Biblical Eglon or Debir–Kirjath Sepher)
- 1926–7, 1929, 1932, 1935 William F. Bade excavated Mizpah
- 1928–33 Elihu Grant excavated Beth Shemesh
- 1930–6 John Garstang excavated Jericho
- 1931–3, 1935 John W. Crowfoot excavated Samaria
1932–38 James L. Starkey excavated Lachish (the excavation terminated when he was killed by bandits near Hebron while on his way to the opening ceremonies of the Palestine Archaeological Museum)
- 1936–40 Benjamin Mazar excavated Beit She’arim.
Milestones during 1945–1967:
In 1945 the Nag Hammadi library—a collection of early Christian Gnostic texts also known as the “Gnostic Gospels”—was discovered near the town of Nag Hammadi. Twelve leather-bound papyrus codices buried in a sealed jar were found by a local peasant. Some of these documents, such as the Gospel of Thomas, were specifically rejected by Eusebius and others in the early Catholic Church from inclusion in the New Testament.
1947 and later: The Dead Sea Scrolls are an important testimony to the antiquity of the texts. The first seven scrolls had initially appeared on the antiquities market, but when their enormous importance was recognized, archaeologists eventually found their source in a series of caves above the Dead Sea, and subsequent searches located thousands of similar fragments. Following the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 and the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948, Biblical Archaeology gained new momentum. The science of archaeology had been digested and refined by new excavators who conducted numerous surveys of smaller sites during the second half of the 20th century, and re-excavations at major sites using modernized techniques.
- 1948–50, 1952–5 Jacob Kaplan excavated Jaffa
- 1954, 1959–62 Yohanan Aharoni excavated Ramat Rahel
- 1955–8, 1968 Yigael Yadin excavated Hazor
- 1956–7, 1959–60, 1962 James B. Pritchard excavated Gibeon
- 1961–7 Kathleen Kenyon excavated Jerusalem (City of David)
- 1962–7 Yohanan Aharoni and Ruth Amiran excavated Arad
- 1962–3, 1965–72 Moshe Dothan excavated Ashdod
- 1963–5 Yigael Yadin excavated Masada
- 1964–74 G. Ernest Wright, William G. Dever, and Joe Seger excavated Gezer
- This was the first Palestinian excavation to operate as a school by granting academic/college credit.
Milestones after 1967: Following the Six-day War, archeologists conducted more extensive excavations within the city limits of modern Jerusalem. One highlight in particular came from Ketef Hinnom just southwest of the Old City: two small silver scrolls uniquely preserve Biblical texts older than the Dead Sea Scrolls. Both of these amulets contain the Priestly Blessing from the Book of Numbers; one also contains a quote found in parallel verses of Exodus (20:6) and Deuteronomy (5:10 and 7:9). The same verses appear again later in Daniel (9:4) and Nehemiah (1:5).
A major development of Processual and Post-processual archaeology has been the development of settlement studies in the highlands, which suggest that a process of state development only occurred after 950 BCE, possibly with the development of Omride Israel
- 1968–78 Benjamin Mazar excavated Jerusalem (southwest corner of the Temple Mount)
- 1969–76 Yohanan Aharoni and Ze’ev Herzog excavated Beersheba
- 1969–82 Nahman Avigad excavated Jerusalem (Jewish Quarter)
- 1973–94 David Ussishkin excavated Lachish
- 1975–82 Avraham Biran excavated Aroer
- 1977–9, 1981–9 Amihai Mazar and George L. Kelm excavated Timnah
- 1978–85 Yigal Shiloh excavated Jerusalem (City of David)
- 1979–80 Gabriel Barkay excavated Ketef Hinnom
- 1979, 1981–2, 1984–7, 1990–1, 1993–2000 David Livingston excavated Khirbet Nisya
- 1981–2, 1984–8, 1990, 1992–6 Trude Dothan and Seymour Gitin excavated Ekron
- 1989–96 Amihai Mazar excavated Tel Beit-Shean
- 1994–2007 Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin excavated Megiddo (ongoing annually)
- 1996–2002, 2004–2008 Aren Maeir excavates at Tell es-Safi (identified as Biblical Gath) of the Philistines
- 1997– Amihai Mazar excavated Tel Rehov
- 1999–2001, 2005 Ron Tappy excavated Tel Zayit (Zeitah)
- 2005 Oded Lipschits excavated Ramat Rahel
- 2005 Amir Gorzalczany and Gerald Finkielsztejn excavated Nahal Tut
- 2007 Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor excavated Khirbet Qeiyafa