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Artifacts appearing in the Museum's Canaan and Ancient Israel Gallery were drawn from the Museum's Syro-Palestinian collection of over 15,000 artifacts which came from these archaeological excavations:

Tel Beth Shemesh

Tel Beth Shean


Tell es-Sa'idiyeh


the Baq'ah Valley

In Canaan and ancient Israel, archaeological sites are most often mounds, which have been built up by thousands of years' worth of habitation in the same place. These mounds are called tels (in Arabic, tells).

Tel Beth Shemesh

Elihu Grant of Haverford College (Haverford, Pennsylvania) directed excavations at Beth Shemesh, a seven-acre tel, or mound, situated about twelve miles west of Jerusalem, known in the Bible as the birthplace of Joshua. The Hebrew name apparently preserves the tradition of an older Canaanite temple. The remains are from the Middle Bronze Age through the Byzantine period (1900 BCE to c. 830 CE).

Tel Beth Shean

The site of Beth Shean (Tell el-Husn, modern Beisan) is located on a large ten-acre mound. Project directors Clarence Fisher, Alan Rowe, and Gerald FitzGerald excavated eighteen city levels dating from the Late Neolithic period (4500 BCE) through the 12th century CE. At the time of the conquest, according to the Bible, Beth Shean is one of the cities from which the Israelites did not rout the Canaanites (Joshua 17:11; Judges 1:27), and the city onto whose walls the Philistines "fastened" the body of Saul and those of his sons (1 Samuel 31:10).


Dr. James B. Pritchard, the first curator of the Section of Biblical Archaeology at the Museum directed the excavations at the biblical city of Gibeon.

Then spoke Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the men of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel, "Sun, stand thou still at Gibeon, and thou Moon in the valley of Al'jalon."

Gibeon, the modern Arab village of el-Jib, was first occupied in the Middle Bronze Age I as evidenced mainly by its cemetery. In the Early Iron Age, a massive city wall was built around the mound and a huge cylindrical pool for fresh water, reached by a spiraling stair of 79 steps, was excavated in the bedrock. The city reached its peak in the 7th century BCE when the entire mound was covered with buildings and the Gibeonites produced and traded large quantities of wine (63 rock-cut storage cellars for wine were excavated).

Tell es- Sa'idiyeh

In 1964, Dr. Pritchard turned his attention to Tell es- Sa'idiyeh. In two seasons of excavation, he found a cemetery used in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age (ca. 1250-1150 BCE) and city remains from the Iron Age (9th-8th century BCE). The rich burials at Tell es-Sa'idiyeh contained bronze vessels, jewelry of gold and precious stones, and beautiful imported and locally produced pottery.


Dr. Pritchard then directed four seasons of excavations at Sarepta (modern Sarafand) in Lebanon. This important Phoenician port flourished from its foundation in about 1600 BCE through the Byzantine era. Several kilns were discovered at Sarepta which shed great light on Phoenician pottery manufacturing.

The Baq'ah Valley Project

The Museum's collections also include artifacts from five seasons of survey and excavation in the Baq'ah Valley (between 1977-1987), nine miles northwest of Amman, Jordan. Dr. Patrick E. McGovern, Senior Research Scientist in the Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology (MASCA), directed excavation and survey at several different tels and burial caves, discovering artifacts dating as far back as the Early Bronze Age. Among the significant discoveries were a large Late Bronze Age cult building and one of the largest tombs from the Early Iron Age (1200-1050 BCE) excavated in the area.

The University of Pennsylvania was among the first American universities to conduct large-scale excavations in the Middle East. Today, the Museum still plays a major role in research and fieldwork in this area with two ongoing projects: the 3rd millennium BCE site of Tell es-Sweyhat in northern Syria (1989-present) under the direction of Dr. Richard Zettler, Associate Curator in Charge of the Near East Section, and Khirbat Mudaynat 'Aliya, Jordan (1994-present), under the direction of Dr. Bruce Routledge, curator of this exhibition.

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