Biblical Archaeology Review 45:4, July/August September/October 2019

Archaeological Views: Missing from the Picture

American Women in Biblical Archaeology

By Jennie Ebeling

Women have made important contributions to digs in the Holy Land since the early days of archaeology. Photographs in excavation reports from the late 19th and early 20th centuries attest to large numbers of Palestinian women and girls among the laborers at archaeological digs. Writing in 1902, Frederick J. Bliss and R.A.S. Macalister described the labor pool on their excavations in the Shephelah as largely female: “At first we employed only men and boys, as the women and girls were shy, but after we had gained the confidence of the whole village, the female element predominated.”1

A number of foreign women played a variety of roles on digs in Palestine between World War I and World War II. British archaeologist Dorothy Garrod led a team that included female staff and workers at Mount Carmel in the 1920s and 1930s, and British archaeologists Hilda Petrie, Grace Mary Crowfoot, and Olga Tufnell made important contributions to the excavation and publication of Tell el-Ajjul, Samaria-Sebaste, Lachish, and other sites. Dame Kathleen Kenyon (also British) directed excavations in Jericho and Jerusalem through the 1950s and 1960s. And groundbreaking Israeli archaeologists Ruth Amiran and Trude Dothan worked with Yigael Yadin at Hazor in the 1950s and directed numerous projects in Israel.

These and other archaeologists paved the way for increasing numbers of female students, specialists, and staff on excavations in Israel during the past 50 years.

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