Salvage excavations as a source for reconstructing settlement history in ancient israel

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Most parts of Israel were excavated intensively, and most of the country was also covered by surveys. Our knowledge of settlement patterns and distribution during the various periods is very comprehensive — probably more so than in any other region in the world. Using data from the numerous excavations and from the detailed surveys, many studies have made use of various and sundry methods, in order to learn about the settlements and the population of the country, about changes in settlement patterns and distribution, and about periods of crises, decline, or growth. Past studies, however, have ignored an entire array of findings that could have improved, refined, and even changed the familiar picture of the settlement history of ancient Israel. Thousands of salvage excavations ('rescue digs') were carried out over the years, and especially in the last decade, but these have not been dealt with systematically. These excavations provide comprehensive and reliable information, which is likely to change the picture of the history of settlement in some periods. While a comprehensive project of collecting and analysing the published data on these excavations is now in progress, the present article aims at drawing attention to this neglected source of information. We will demonstrate the advantages of this analysis as compared to other sources of information, and will show how this information, when combined with other sources of information, is changing our understanding of the settlement history of certain periods, including the transition from the Iron Age I–II and the formation of the Israelite monarchy, the nature of the Neo-Babylonian period, and the outcomes of the Jewish revolts against the Romans. The paper ends with a discussion of the advantages and limitations of the various sources of information, i.e., planned excavations, surveys, and salvage excavations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-158
Number of pages20
JournalPalestine Exploration Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2005


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