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Excavations in Jerusalem (1867-1870)

Begun in 1867, the expedition to Jerusalem undertaken by Lt. Charles Warren of the Royal Engineers was the PEF's first substantial project. Warren's instructions were to investigate the site of the Temple, the line of fortification of the ancient city, the authenticity of the traditional Holy Sepulchre, the position of the Fortress Antonoa, and the City of David.

By means of a series of tunnels, at great personal risk, Warren and his colleagues, most notable of whom was Sergeant Birtles, were able to define the topography of Jerusalem, recognise the work of Herod on the Temple Platform, and explore the ancient water systems.

Excavations at Temple Mount

The Survey of Western Palestine (1871-1878)

The Survey of Western Palestine was conducted by among others, a young Lt. H.H. Kitchener of the Royal Engineers, later of Khartoum and World War One fame. The Survey of Western Palestine was the first accurate survey and map of the whole of the southern Levant west of the Jordan River, and gave subsequent archaeologists, botanists, geologists and geographers valuable reference material. This was perhaps the Fund's most ambitious and successful project of all.

The excavations at Tell el Hesi (1890-1892)

Though better known by the general public as the father of Egyptology Sir William Flinders Petrie made an equally strong contribution to Palestinian Archaeology.

His excavations at Tell el-Hesi conducted for the Palestine Exploration Fund in 1890 were perhaps even more pioneering than those at the earlier Egyptian sites, because it was here that he first applied the principles of stratigraphic excavation and ceramic typology and seriation to the material. These methods of digging and organising the ceramic material to form linear sequences through time, or 'chronologies' have become the back-bone of modern archaeology world-wide.

The excavations at Tell el-Hesi, which lies on the southeastern coastal plain of Palestine, were continued in the second and third seasons by the American, F. J. Bliss, still under the auspices of the PEF.

The Wilderness of Zin - Archaeological Survey (1913-1914)

This survey was undertaken on behalf of the PEF by two figures better known for exploits in other fields, namely Sir Leonard Woolley (of Ur fame, the Mesopotamian city which he went on to excavate in the 1920s), and T. E. Lawrence "of Arabia". The main aims of the survey were as follows: 

  1. To clarify the history of occupation of this area of the Southern Negev by examining and mapping the archaeological remains from all periods.
  2. To trace the old inland route of caravans from central Palestine to Egypt.
  3. To identify sites mentioned in the Bible and other ancient texts.
  4. To investigate the area of 'Ain Kedeis, traditionally associated with the site of Kadesh Barnea as mentioned in the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament of the Bible.

In a few weeks, Woolley and Lawrence largely accomplished these objectives. They compiled a great deal of valuable archaeological data from this inaccessible region, which has proved to be an important source of information.

The Palestine Exploration Fund, 2 Hinde Mews, Marylebone Lane, London, W1U 2AA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7935 5379 | Fax: +44 (0)20 7486 7438 | Email: ExecSec@PEF.org.uk
Registered company: 13606 | Registered charity: 212538