History and Archaeology of Israel/Palestine



By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Land of Israel/Palestine, also known as the Holy Land, Israel or Palestine, is the birthplace of the Jewish people, the place where the final form of the Hebrew Bible is thought to have been compiled, and the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity. It contains sites sacred to Judaism, Samaritanism, Christianity and Islam. The region has come under the sway of various empires and, as a result, has hosted a wide variety of ethnicities.

Part of the significance of the land stems from the religious significance of Jerusalem (the holiest city to Judaism, and the location of the First and Second Temples), as the historical region of Jesus' ministry, and as the site of the first Qibla of Islam, as well as the site of the Isra and Mi'raj event of circa 621 CE in Islam.

The archaeology of the Holylands of Israel/Palestine is the study of the archaeology stretching from prehistory through three millennia of documented history. The ancient Land of Israel/Palestine was a geographical bridge between the political and cultural centers of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Despite the importance of the country to three major religions, serious archaeological research only began in the 15th century CE.

Back to Middle East

Related Subjects

Archaeology of Ancient Israel and Palestine

Featured Article Madaba Map

Dating from the second half of the 6th century, the Madaba Map mosaic depicts the geography of the Holy Land at that time. It is the oldest map of the Holy Land in existence. Discovered in a remote Ottoman town of Jordan in 1884 CE, the Madaba Map is both a masterpiece of Byzantine design and a working map of Jerusalem and the sixth-century Middle East. The cartographic accuracy of the Madaba Map enabled scholars to identify landmarks in its representation of Jerusalem. Among these is the New Church of St. Mary, the Mother of God, consecrated on November 20, 542 CE.

Explore Madaba Mosaic Map

Featured ArticleBe'er Karkom Mosques

Two open-type mosques were discovered at a large nomadic site in a wide valley, 500 meters east of Be'er Karkom. The discovery of two open-type mosques in this settlement can be explained by its size, it being one of the largest sites dating back to the sixth till eighth centuries CE in the southern Negev Highlands.

And by its proximity to Be'er Karkom, one of the few water sources in the region. These mosques have no building on them. They are simply land cleared away and stones laid out, so that the faithful can pray.

Explore Beer Karkom Mosques

Featured ArticleSeal of King Hezekiah

The small mud-bulla was found by a team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem at the site of an ancient dump, beside the wall that surrounds Jerusalem's Old City. It is thought the oval bulla, which is 13mm (0.5in) wide, was once attached to a papyrus document signed by Hezekiah, one of the kings of Judah. It is believed to have been thrown out with the rubbish from a royal building.

The bulla is imprinted with the symbol of a winged sun and an inscription in an ancient Hebrew script, saying: "Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah". Hezekiah, who ruled from 727-698 BCE, is described favourably in the Bible, as well as in the chronicles of the Assyrian kings, who ruled during his time.

List of Seals/Bullae / Explore

Featured ArticleSea of Galilee Boat (Jesus Boat)

In 1986, a 2,000-year-old boat was discovered in Israel on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. The vessel is representative of the large fishing boats common on the ancient lake, and the type of boat used in the Gospels by the disciples of Jesus. It is also the type of boat used by the Jews in the brutal nautical Battle of Migdal in 67 CE against a makeshift Roman fleet.

Extracting it safely presented a huge challenge to excavators. Conservation of its waterlogged timbers then took 11 years. In 2000 the vessel — officially known as "The Ancient Galilee Boat" — went on permanent display in the Yigal Allon Museum at Kibbutz Ginosar, near where it was discovered.


Featured ArticleIvory Pomegranate

Stored in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem is an ivory pomegranate the size of a thumb with writing on it. Its authenticity has been debated since it first came to the attention of the public in 1980s. Is the object’s paleo-Hebrew inscription—which as reconstructed contains the divine name Yahweh used by the ancient Israelites.

For 15 years, the inscribed ivory pomegranate could be seen at the Israel Museum, displayed in a special room with a direct beam of light on it. In 2005, however, a committee comprised of Israel Antiquities Authority and Israel Museum scholars published a report in the Israel Exploration Journal concluding that the inscription was a forgery.


Featured ArticleList of Muslim Shrines in Palestine

The land of Palestine holds deep spiritual significance for millions of Muslims around the world. This sacred region is dotted with a multitude of shrines, mosques, and holy sites that bear witness to centuries of Islamic history, faith, and devotion. These hallowed sites are not only places of worship but also repositories of history, culture, and heritage. They provide a profound glimpse into the rich tapestry of Islam's presence in Palestine, from the early days of the faith to the modern era.

This article is primarily based on the works of Tawfiq Canaan, a pioneering Palestinian physician, medical researcher, ethnographer.


Recommended Readings

The Quest for the Historical Israel Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel

Israel Finkelstein, Amihai Mazar

This book brings together for the first time an emerging centrist paradigm that the material cultural data, the biblical traditions, and the ancient Near Eastern written sources are all significantly relevant to the historical quest for Iron Age Israel.
See on Amazon

Palestine A Four Thousand Year History

Nur Masalha

This rich and magisterial work traces Palestine's millennia-old heritage, uncovering cultures and societies of astounding depth and complexity that stretch back to the very beginnings of recorded history. Masalha attemps reveals that the concept of Palestine, contrary to accepted belief, is not a modern invention or one constructed in opposition to Israel, but rooted firmly in ancient past. Palestine represents the authoritative account of the country's history.
See on Amazon

The Prophets of Israel Walking the Ancient Paths

Jodi Magness

In The Prophets of Israel, Old Testament scholar and longtime field archaeologist James K. Hoffmeier explores the biblical prophets through their ancient settings. Readers gain a more accurate and comprehensive understanding through many practical components. These features and photos vividly illustrate the biblical narratives and the prophets' concerns, helping readers better comprehend each text's message and make informed theological applications.
See on Amazon

The Archaeology of the Early Islamic Settlement in Palestine

Jodi Magness

Archaeological evidence is frequently cited by scholars as proof or confirmation that Palestine declined after the Muslim conquest, and especially after the rise of the Abbasids in the mid-eighth century. Instead, Magness argues that the archaeological evidence, freed insofar as possible of political and/or religious biases, supports the idea that Palestine and Syria experienced a tremendous growth.
See on Amazon

The Archaeology of Ancient Judea and Palestine

Ariel Lewin

The regions that compose the current state of Israel and the emerging state of Palestine have yielded a wealth of fascinating archaeological evidence, from the Dead Sea Scrolls found in a cave in 1947 by a Bedouin searching for a lost sheep, to the remains of Roman camps and King Herod's luxurious palaces at the besieged city of Masada.
See on Amazon

Daily Life in Biblical Times (Archaeology and Biblical Studies) Illustrated Edition

Oded Borowski

Where did the Israelites live? What did people do for a living? What did they eat and what affected their health? How did the family function? These and similar questions form the basis for this book. The book introduces different aspects of daily life.
See on Amazon

Let's bring some history to your inbox

Signup for our monthly newsletter / online magazine.
No spam, we promise.

Privacy Policy