The Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF) was founded under the royal patronage of Queen Victoria in 1865 by a group of distinguished academics and clergymen, most notably the Dean of Westminster Abbey, Arthur Stanley, and Sir George Grove.

The original mission statement of the PEF was to promote research into the archaeology and history, manners and customs and culture, topography, geology and natural sciences of biblical Palestine and the Levant. The PEF now has a history rich in association with many of the outstanding names of Levantine exploration including:

In the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, the PEF was central to the development of archaeology in the region, undertaking ambitious and well-chosen projects that significantly enhanced the knowledge of those working in the area. Its subject-base has never been limited to archaeology alone and includes natural history, anthropology, history and geography.

Key projects sponsored by the PEF included:

  • 1867–1870: Excavations in Jerusalem by Warren and Birtles
  • 1871–1878: The Survey of Western Palestine conducted by Conder and Kitchener (among others)
  • 1890–1893: Excavations at Tell el-Hesi directed by Petrie and Bliss
  • 1913–1914: The Wilderness of Zin Archaeological Survey conducted by Woolley and Lawrence.