Biblical archaeological sites in Israel
This page shows the location of the major archaeological sites found in Israel. For each location, there is a brief description of the site and its place in history. For each location there are a number of links. The first is to the Wikipedia page. There are two links to Google maps, one showing the general geographical location, and the other showing an aerial view of the archaeological site, if it has been excavated. For some locations there are extra links to one or more of the Holy Land Photos website, a local website or to the archaeological project website.
The following locations are described. The name of each location acts as a link to the main description further down the page. More will be added soon.
Pool of Gibeon
Arad was a Canaanite city in the Negeb inhabited at the time of Moses and Joshua. Their king attacked Israel when they began to enter the Promised Land, but was defeated by the Israelites (Josh 12:14). "When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negeb, heard that Israel was coming ..." (Num 21:1, 33:40).
A fortress was built by the Kingdom of Judea probably to defend the land from the Edomites. It contained a whole temple, which is described on tablets found on the site as a 'temple to Yahweh'. Within the temple was a high place containing smooth standing stones, representing the presence of Yahweh, and altars. Remains of the incense on the altars have recently been analysed and found to contain frankincense and cannabis.
Excavation of the site of Arad began in the 1960's. It is located west of the Dead Sea, about 10 km (6 miles) west of the modern town of Arad.
A replica of the high place from Arad is displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Ashdod was one of the five cities of the Philistines, known as the Pentapolis, along with Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath and Gaza.
Ashkelon was one of the five cities of the Philistines, known as the Pentapolis, along with Ashdod, Ekron, Gath and Gaza.
Originally called Luz, Bethel, meaning 'House of God' was given its name by Jacob after his dream of ladder reaching to heaven (Gen 28:10-22). Following the division of the kingdom, Jeroboam I placed a golden calf at Bethel, claiming that it was a representation of Yahweh (1 Kg 12:25-33). The prophet Amos brought his words against the northern kingdom of Israel at Bethel (Amos 7:10-17).
The site of Bethel is thought to be near the village of Beitin, on the Palestinian West Bank, 3 miles (5 km) north-east of Ramallah.
Before the area was conquered by the tribe of Dan, the city was known as Laish (Judges 18:7).
Dan was the location of the shrine built by King Jeroboam of Israel following the division of the kingdom. "So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. He said to the people, 'You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.' He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan." (1 Kg 13:28-39).
The site of Dan lies in the far north of modern Israel. Excavation began in 1966, and many important discoveries have been made. The site contains a very well–preserved Canaanite gate from about 1750 BC, other gates from the time of the divided monarchy, and the site of the shrine where Jeroboam's golden calves may have been placed. The site of the original altar is shown by a modern metal frame.
An inscription naming King David and the house of David was found in Dan and is displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Ekron was one of the five cities of the Philistines, known as the Pentapolis, along with Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Gaza.
Gaza was one of the five cities of the Philistines, known as the Pentapolis, along with Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron and Gaza.
Gaza was one of the five cities of the Philistines, known as the Pentapolis, along with Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron and Gath.
Gibeon was the high place where God appeared to Solomon (1 Kg 3:4-14), where Solomon asked for great wisdom from the Lord. It outside the village of el-jib, which is situated south of the Palestinian city of Ramallah, 9km north-west of Jerusalem.
Hazor was a large Canaanite city that was conquered by Joshua (Josh 11) and allotted to the tribe of Naphtali (Josh 19:36). The forces of King Jabin of Hazor fought against Deborah and Barak (Judges 4:2, 17). Solomon fortified the city (1 Kings 9:15). It was conquered by Tiglath–pileser III of Assyria in 732 BC (2 Kg 15:29).
The site of Hazor is located on a ridge 15km (9.5 miles) north of the Sea of Galilee overlooking the swampy Huleh Valley. It is one of the largest tels in Israel.
The carved gate post from the fortress in Hazor from the time of King Ahab of Israel is displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. A large storage jar from the time of Joshua, probably used for grain, discovered in Hazor is displayed in the British Museum.
The Pool of Gibeon is mentioned twice in the OT. The first is in the account of the conflict between the followers of King Saul led by Abner and the servants of David led by Joab.
"Abner son of Ner, and the servants of Ishbaal son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon. Joab son of Zeruiah, and the servants of David, went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. ..." (2 Sam 2:12-23)
An impressive water system was uncovered during archaeological excavations at el-Jib in the 1950's. The pool was built around the 12th or 13th century BC and was used as a stairway leading to an underground water-source for the city of Gibeon. It has been described as 'one of the ancient world's remarkable engineering achievements'. It is 88 ft (27 m) deep. A spiral staircase along the walls allowed access to the water.
After the Fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 BC, Gedaliah was appointed governor over Judah by the king of Babylon. Gedaliah was killed during a rebellion led by a man called Ishmael at Mizpah (Jer 41). The followers of Gedaliah fought against Ishmael and his followers at the great pool at Gibeon."
"But when Johanan son of Kareah and all the leaders of the foreces with him heard of all the crimes that Ishmael son of Nethaniah had done, they took all their men and went to fight against Ishmael son of Nethaniah. They came upon him at the great pool that is in Gibeon. ..."(Jer 41:11-12).
Shiloh was one of the most holy sites in Old Testament Israel, particularly as it was the location of the tabernacle following the conquest of the land, and during the period of the judges, particularly Samuel. "Then the whole congregation of the Israelites assembled at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there." (Josh 18:1). This is where the sacrifices and festivals of the LORD took place (Ju 21:9), and where Samuel ministered under Eli (1 Sam 3). "The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD" (1 Sam 3:21).
Excavations at Shiloh have uncovered a stone platform of the exact dimensions of the tabernacle (100 cubits x 50 cubits - 52m x 26m), facing east-west. According to Jewish writings, the tabernacle at Shiloh was erected on a stone platform, "The house of choice in Shiloh was built of stones from below and sheets from above" (Seder Olam 11). "When they arrived at Shiloh, private altars were prohibited. And there was no roof of wood or stone there, rather there was only a building of stone below and the curtains of the roof of the Tabernacle were spread above it." (Mishnah Zebahim 14:6). It appears that a more permanent structure was erected around the tabernacle at some point, which would be suggested when it is recorded that Samuel opened the doors of the house of the LORD (1 Sam 3:15).
A number of discoveries at the site would confirm that this was the location of the tabernacle, including ceramic pomegranates, uncut altar horns, and a large deposit of sacrificial animal bones at the east end. Two thirds of these are from the right side of the animal, which was the portion for the priests (Lev 7:32). Large storage jars with collared rims have also been found, which would date the site as an early Israelite settlement. Egyptian scarabs with the name of Thutmose III (1479-1425), possibly the Pharoah of the Exodus, have been found at the site. Fire damage noted at the site would confirm that the site was destroyed, probably by the Philistines (1 Sam 4).
Following the recovery of the ark of the covenant from the Philistines, the tabernacle was moved to Kiriath-jearim for twenty years (1 Sam 7:2) then to Gibeon (1 Chron 16:29), and finally brought into Jerusalem by David with great rejoicing (2 Sam 6:12).
Joshua captured the king of Tirzah during the conquest of the promised land (Joshua 12:24; 17:3). Tirzah initially became the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam, Baasha (1 Kg 15:21,33, 16:6), Elah (1 Kg 16:8), Zimri (1 Kg 16:15), and Omri (1 Kg 16:23), who moved his capital to Samaria after the sixth year of his reign.
The exact location of Tirzah is not certain. It is thought to be Tel el Farah, a mound located about seven miles NE of Shechem (at modern Nablus). It was excavated over nine years between 1946 and 1960. Most of the tel is currently covered by an orchard. It is often referred to Tel el Farah north, to distinguish it from another site with the same name.