Biblical Archaeology Review 40:5, September/October 2014

Ancient Israel Through a Social Scientific Lens

By Yigal Levin

In broad scope, our extensive knowledge of the “world of the Bible” was formed in three stages. The 19th century saw the early exploration of the Holy Land and surrounding countries by people like the American Edward Robinson, the Frenchmen Victor Guérin and Charles Clermont-Ganneau and especially the explorers associated with the British Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF), founded in 1865, such as C.R. Conder, Charles Warren, H.H. Kitchener, Conrad Schick and Charles Wilson, as well as equivalent French, German and American schools.a Many of these explorers published multivolume works on the geography and history of the Holy Land, including proposals for the identification of many of the major Biblical sites. In the years 1871–1878, the PEF conducted its grand Survey of Western Palestine, and by the end of the 19th century, most of the land west of the Jordan had been surveyed and mapped. The 19th century also saw the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform and the uncovering of the literature and history of the ancient Near East, which gave us both the historical and cultural contexts out of which the Bible emerged.

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