Archeological investigation in the Land of Israel
began in the middle of the 19th century, when biblical scholars surveyed
the area in search of remains of places mentioned in the Bible. Toward
the end of the 19th century, but mainly since the beginning of the 20th
century, many mounds (in Hebrew tel) composed of the remains of ancient
settlements were excavated, and the foundations for scientific
archeological investigation were laid. Archeological activities expanded
during the British Mandate period (1917-1948) and have been increased
to a large extent since the establishment of the State of Israel.
The experience gained during the excavations has shaped the methods
of stratigraphic research, accompanied by the meticulous study of the
development (typology) of the forms of pottery vessels and other
artifacts, by which archeological strata and remains may be dated. In
recent years, archeological research has been extended to include
less-known aspects of the ancient material cultures, such as nutrition,
disease, economy, and commerce. These achievements of modern
archeological research are being applied in the dozens of sites that are
excavated every year.
Archeology in Israel involves the systematic investigation of all the
remains of the country's past - from prehistory to the end of Ottoman
rule. The profusion of material remains is evidence of the many cultures
that have left their imprint on the Land. The unique geographical
features influenced the more ancient cultures: tens of thousands of
years ago, the Land served as a land bridge, over which bands of hunters
crossed from Africa to Europe. Their camps and living quarters have
been found along the Jordan Valley and in the caves of the Carmel range
and the Galilee.
In biblical times, the Land was the bridge between the prosperous
cultures of the Fertile Crescent: Mesopotamia (today, Iraq) and Egypt.
Since its occupation by Alexander the Great, the Land of Israel has
served as a geographic and cultural link between east and west.
Archeological research in Israel accords much importance to the fact
that the country is the home of the spiritual heritage of the great
monotheistic religions. Above all it clearly reveals the historical link
between the Jewish people, the Bible and the Land of Israel, uncovering
the remains of the cultural heritage of the Jewish people in its
homeland. These visible remains, buried in the soil, constitute the
physical link between the past, the present and the future of the Jewish
people in its country.
This unbroken chain of history can be observed at sites all over the country: in the biblical cities of Hatzor, Megiddo, Gezer, Shomron, Be'er Sheva and Dan; in the cities of the Second Temple period - Tiberias, Sepphoris (Tsippori), Gamala - and the fortresses of Masada and Herodion,
where the Jews fought for freedom; in the Judean Desert near the Dead
Sea, where the remains of the Essenes' spiritual center were uncovered,
and the Dead Sea Scrolls,
including the earliest copies of books of the Bible, were found. From
the same period, sites associated with the life of Jesus were uncovered -
Capernaum, Tabgha - where there are also remains of churches from the Byzantine period.