Archaeological Surveys and Excavations in Palestine and the Awareness of Their Dimensions from the Middle of the 19th Century until the First World War

Suhaila S. Al-Shalabi, Shadia H. AlIdwan


Archaeological excavations represent an essential and important pillar for the issue of confirming or refuting the Zionist claims to the land of Palestine. Different parties have used them for centuries to achieve various goals. While Western states associated their economical and political ambitions in the area with religious objectives represented in confirming what is stated in the Bible, Zionism came to employ the dream of the Jews to return to the Promised Land and to the land of their ancestors in order to achieve a political benefit represented in establishing a Jewish/Zionist state in Palestine, with the possibility of expanding it into nearby areas. As a result, Palestine and the neighbouring Arab states – albeit to a lesser degree – witnessed large-scale survey and excavation by European archaeological expeditions in general and by British expeditions in particular.
However, this interest and activity did not find any similar Ottoman or Arab reaction or awareness in terms of quality and quantity. There were only sporadic and occasional reactions that did not belong to an organized plan. The reaction was restricted to specific events at different times that did not stem from an organized awareness in order to launch a continous campaign against such excavations and their objectives. Moreover, there was no awareness of the dimensions of the excavations and the role of Zionism in attempting to employ history serve its cause.


Archaeology, Zionism, Palestine, Adjunct Scholar.

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