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September 14 , 2007

The Excavations of Beth Shemesh, November–December 1912


In 1909 the Scottish archaeologist Duncan Mackenzie, Sir Arthur Evans’s right-hand man on the excavations of the legendary ‘Palace of Minos’ at Knossos since 1900, was appointed ‘Explorer’ of the Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF). From the spring of 1910 until December 1912 he was engaged in archaeological fieldwork in Palestine, especially directing excavation campaigns at Ain Shems (biblical Beth Shemesh) – an important site in the Shephelah of Judah at the crossroads of Canaanite, Philistine, and Israelite cultures. Mackenzie published the results of his work in various issues of the Palestine Exploration Quarterly and Palestine Exploration Fund Annual. Because of a financial dispute with the PEF, however, he never submitted a detailed publication of his very last campaign at Beth Shemesh, conducted in November–December 1912.

In 1992 Nicoletta Momigliano rediscovered Mackenzie’s lost manuscript on his latest discoveries at Beth Shemesh, which one of his nephews had kept for nearly 80 years at his old family home in the Scottish Highlands, in the small village of Muir of Ord. At about the same time, Shlomo Bunimovitz and Zvi Lederman initiated new excavations at Beth Shemesh which considerably changed previous interpretations of the site. This volume presents Mackenzie’s detailed discussion of his last excavations at Beth Shemesh in the light of these more recent discoveries. Although written over a century ago, Mackenzie’s manuscript deserves to be better known today; it not only provides significant new information on this important site but also constitutes an intriguing historical document, shedding light on the history of field archaeology and of biblical archaeology. Moreover, Mackenzie’s pioneering approach to archaeological fieldwork and the significance of his finds can often be better appreciated today, from the perspective of more recent developments and discoveries.

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