The birth of archaeology
Biblical archaeology
Connections with biblical events and figures were a major interest of early archaeologists active in the Middle East.
The Christian nations of Europe had long been interested in the Holy Land, and particularly in Jerusalem. Birs Nimrud in Iraq was thought to be the site of the Tower of Babel, destroyed by divine wrath. The Egyptians, Babylonians and Assyrians were known from the Bible as well as from classical sources. Interest in the archaeology of these lands was driven by their biblical relevance.

Learned societies dedicated to the study of the Holy Land were founded, such as the Palestine Exploration Fund in the UK in 1865, with the King as Patron and the Archbishop of Canterbury as President. The PEF carried out a detailed survey of an area of 6,000 square miles between 1871 and 1878. The first systematic excavation in Palestine was carried out by William Matthew Flinders Petrie at Tell el-Hesi, thought by him to be Lachish.
The Black Obelisk of Assyrian King Shalmaneser III

Obelisk: 825 BC; photo: 1876

The British Museum, London, United Kingdom

Photographer: Frederick York


The Black Obelisk of the Assyrian King Shalmaneser III was excavated by a British expedition at Nimrud (Iraq) in 1846. There was great excitement when it was found to contain reference to biblical King Jehu. Furthermore, it depicted his image, still the oldest known image of a King of Israel.

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In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
The birth of archaeology
The formation of museums
Inspired by the past