Prof. Israel Finkelstein

Professor of Archaeology


Website: website:

Laureate of the Dan David Prize in the Past Dimension, Archaeology, 2005:


Member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

‘Correspondant étranger’ of the French Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres

Named Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture (2009); Doctorate honoris causa from the University of Lausanne (2010)

Director of the Megiddo Expedition (1992-) and Co-Director of the European Research Project “Reconstructing Ancient Israel: The Exact and Life Sciences Perspective" (2009-2014)

Author of The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement (1988), Living on the Fringe (1995), The Bible Unearthed (2001), David and Solomon (2006 – the latter two with Neil Asher Silberman) and The Forgotten Kingdom (2013, won of the Prix Delalande Guérineau of the Institut de France, l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres)

Archaeological Field Work

1976-1978: Field Director, the Izbet Sartah excavations, under Prof. M. Kochavi

1976-1978: Director of the archaeological survey of Byzantine monastic remains in Southern Sinai

1977:  Director of the rescue excavations at the mound of ancient Bene-Beraq

1979-1980: Co-director of the Tel Ira excavations (with Prof. I. Beit-Arieh)

1980-1987: Director of the Southern Samaria Survey

1981-1984: Director of the Shiloh excavations

1985-1986: Director of the Kh. ed-Dawwara excavations

1987:  Director of the Dhahr Mirzbaneh excavation

1995, 1999  Co-director, the Megiddoregional survey (with Prof. B. Halpern)

1992-present: Co-director, the Megiddo Expedition (uwith Prof. D. Ussishkin)

2005-present: Geo-archaeology project, the Negev Highlands (until 2012 with Dr. Ruth Shachak-Gross)

2009-present: Various small field works related to the European Research Council project

titled “Reconstructing Ancient (Biblical) Israel: The Exact and Life Sciences Perspective”

The Megiddo Expedition

Megiddo is the jewel in the crown of biblical archaeology. Strategically perched above the most important land route in the ancient Near East, the city dominated international traffic for over 6,000 years — from ca. 7,000 B.C.E. through to biblical times. As civilizations came and went, succeeding settlements at ancient Megiddo were built on the ruins of their predecessors, creating a multi-layered archaeological legacy that abounds in unparalleled treasures that include monumental temples, lavish palaces, mighty fortifications, and remarkably-engineered water systems.

Geoarchaeological investigation in the Negev Highlands

Begun in 2005, the Negev Highlands Research Project, led by Professor Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Ruth Shahack-Gross of the Weizmann Institute of Science, is a multi-disciplinary investigation into the settlement oscillations of the Negev Highlands over the past 5000 years. The project utilizes both conventional archaeology and microarchaeological techniques to reconstruct subsistence economies, paleo-climate, and absolute dating of Negev sites during three major periods of settlement: the Iron Age IIA (c.900-BLANK BCE), Late Byzantine/Early Islamic (600-900 CE), and most recently, the Intermediate Bronze Age (c. 2500-1950 BCE).

Currently the Negev Highlands Research Project is investigating two Intermediate Bronze Age sites, Mashabe Sade and Ein Ziq, using geochemical analyses, XRF (W-ray fluorescence), phytolith and dung spherulite identification, and palynology, to determine subsistence strategies at the site, and in the larger picture, their roles in the complicated southern Levantine copper economy of the period. Simultaneously, an absolute dating scheme is using OSL (optically stimulated luminescence) and radiocarbon determinations to define both vertical and horizontal stratigraphy at the two sites, and to situate them within the poorly understood chronology of the Intermediate Bronze Age.


Most of the texts written in ancient Israel and Judah were ink on papyrus. But these primarily administrative and literary documents were perishable and did not survive the journey down the millennia. The only texts that endured the harsh local climate were the relatively few that were written in ink on pieces of pottery (ostraca). The largest groups of these ostraca were discovered in the excavations of Samaria, Lachish and Arad.

First Temple period (Iron Age II) epigraphy is an important component in the study of biblical history, ancient Hebrew and the biblical text. Traditionally, inscriptions are dated based on:

  • Their archaeological context. However, many texts are found in an unclear archaeological context, or first come to light in the antiquities market.

  • The epigrapher's creation of a typological structure of ancient Hebrew letters. This, however, is, by definition, not objective for it is often subject to considerations which are inevitably influenced by the researcher's cognitive world.

Our research seeks to enhance the second of these points ("traditional" typology) by using automated algorithms to the study of epigraphy. The efficiency of these algorithms have been proven in a great number of applications - from the formation of genetic proximity trees to analysis of financial market data. Algorithms have also been applied to graphological examination of contemporary manuscripts; yet, the ancient methods of writing, the evolution of the alphabet through the centuries, and the damage done to the artifacts in antiquity, do not lend themselves to use of off-the shelf products (in other words, existing scanning and OCR technologies are not readily applicable to ancient ostraca inscriptions).

Therefore, we carry out in-house development of the required technologies in the following stages:

  • Acquire better ostraca images.

  • Produce automated facsimile.

  • Examination of writing characteristics.

  • Clustering and creating letter typology.

Our aim is to create algorithmics with autonomic analysis skills that do not require a researcher's (subjective) involvement.

In addition to developing the computational abilities of handwriting analysis, we seek to improve data input by scanning the inscriptions using non-intrusive methods such as multispectral scanning techniques.


Ancient DNA

Reconstructing the genetic profile of human populations and their livestock in Israel in the Bronze and Iron Ages using ancient DNA. We wish to trace population groups, examine historical continuity versus periods of crises, and to study the impact of mobility and migrations in the Near East on people and societies during these centuries.

The Neubauer Near East Paleo-climate Project 

The project aims to trace links between past climate changes and settlement and demographic processes. This five-year project deals with the climate of the eastern Mediterranean, including the Levant, in the Bronze and Iron Ages (ca. 3500-500 BCE). It is deploying two of the strongest scientific proxies in paleo-climate research: palynology (reconstruction of past vegetation and climate based on fossil pollen identification) and the study of past isotope signature in cave formations and lake sediment cores.

The project is composed of three sub-tracks:

  • The study of pollen and isotope records from Lake Van in eastern Turkey and Lake Iznik in northwestern Turkey (together with T. Litt and D. Langgut).

  • Investigation of the second millennium precipitation record in speleothems in Soreq Cave (together with M. Bar-Matthews).

  • Exploration of the climate of the arid zones of the southern Levant mainly according to the pollen record in Negev rock-

  • shelters and archaeological sites in the region (together with D. Langgut).

Jerusalem Foodways

The project focuses on subsistence economy and culinary practices in Jerusalem and its hinterland in the Iron Age and in the Persian and Hellenistic periods, with special attention to the relationship between economy, social status and diet. It is based on the study of animal remains from prominent excavations that have been carried out in the city and its periphery (villages and farms) in recent years.

Studying Jerusalem and its hinterland as an economically, socially and politically integrated system, we concentrates on detecting two major themes: 1) Economic changes over time: processes of urbanization and ruralization; territorial expansion and decline; demographic growth and shrinkage. 2) Dietary practices: we wish to better understand them against the background of textual materials; they may shed light on the cognitive world of the population and the ideological and theological world of their authors.




Selected articles in

Full list of publication in


Finkelstein, I. Ussishkin, D, and Cline, E. (eds.) 2013. Megiddo V: The 2004-2008 Seasons (Monograph Series of the Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University 31), Winona Lake 2013, ca. 1400 pages in three volumes.

Finkelstein, I.2013. Le Royaume Biblique Oublié, Paris (Odile Jacob for the College de France).

Finkelstein, I. 2008. Un archéologue au pays de la Bible. Paris (collection of articles updated and translated to French). In English: The Forgotten Kingdom. Atlanta (Society of Biblical Literature).

Finkelstein, I. and Mazar, A. 2007. The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of  Early Israel, Atlanta.

Finkelstein, I., Ussishkin, D. and Halpern, B. (eds.). 2006. Megiddo IV: The 1998-2002 Seasons. (Monograph Series of the Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University No. 24). Tel Aviv.

Finkelstein, I. and Silberman, N.A. 2006. David and Solomon, In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition. New York.

Finkelstein, I. and Silberman, N.A. 2001. The Bible Unearthed, Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origins of Its Sacred Texts. New York.

Finkelstein, I., Ussishkin, D. and Halpern, B. (eds.). 2000. Megiddo III: The 1992-1996 Seasons. (Monograph Series of the Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University No. 18) Tel Aviv.

Finkelstein, I. 1995. Living on the Fringe: The Archaeology and History of the Negev, Sinai and Neighbouring Regions in Bronze and Iron Ages. (Monographs in Mediterranean Archaeology 6). Sheffield.

Finkelstein, I. and Na'aman, N. (eds.) 1994. From Nomadism to Monarchy: Archaeological and Historical Aspects of Early Israel. Jerusalem.

Finkelstein, I., Lederman, Z. and Bunimovitz, S. 1993. Highlands of Many Cultures The Southern Sumaria Survey: The Sites. (Monograph Series of the Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University No. 14). Tel Aviv.

Finkelstein, I. (ed.) 1993. Archaeological Survey in the Hill Country of Benjamin. Jerusalem.

Finkelstein, I. (ed.) 1993. Shiloh: The Archaeology of a Biblical Site. (Monograph Series of the Institute of Archaeology, Tel Aviv University No. 10). Tel Aviv.

Finkelstein, I. 1988. The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement. Jerusalem.

Finkelstein, I. 1986. Izbet Sartah: An Early Iron Age Site Near Rosh Haayin, Israel. (BAR International Series 299). Oxford.

Research Students

MA Students 

Alon Shavit, 1992. The Ayalon Valley and Its Vicinity during the Bronze and Iron Ages.

Dan Gazit, 1995. The Besor Region in the Iron Age I according to Analysis of the Pottery from Stratum VIII at Tel Sera'.

Aharon Sasson, 1996. The Pastoral Element in the Economy in Intermediate Bronze and Iron I Sites in the Highlands: An Archaeological-Ethnographic Perspective.

Edtal Levi, 1998. Geographical Information System for Analysis of Spatial Distribution of Sites: Development, Programming and Application in Archaeological Data (co-supervisor - Itzhak Benenson).

Yuval Gadot, 1999. The Wadi 'Ara Pass as an International Highway during the Bronze Age, Iron Age and the Persian Period, in the Light of the Settlement Patterns (co-supervisor - David Ussishkin).

Alexander Fantalkin, 2000. Mesad Hashaviahu: Analysis of the Material Culture and Its Contribution to Historical Reconstruction at the end of the Iron Age (co-supervisor - NadavNa'aman).

Yifat Thareani-Sussely, 2002. Core and Periphery - A Case Study: The Arad Beersheba Valley at the End of the Iron Age. (co-supervisor - Nadav Na'aman).

Eyal Buzaglo, 2004. Petrographic Investigation of Iron Age Pottery Assemblages from Megiddo and the North (co-supervisor - Yuval Goren).

Eran Arie, 2004. "Then I went down to the potter's house": Intra-site Spatial Analysis in the Pottery of Megiddo VIA.

Elena Zahavi-Cogan. 2007. The Assyrian Residency at Ashdod (co-supervisor - Nadav Naaman).

Shirly Ben-Dor Evian. 2008. Inter-relations between Egypt and Israel: The Egyptian Pottery in Iron 1-2b Strata.

Inbal Samet, 2009. Canaanite Rulership in Late Bronze Age Megiddo.

Keren Ras, 2010. The Impact of the Assyrian Rule on Rural Countryside in Northern Palestine: Settlement Dynamics under Imperial Domination.

Sivan Einhorn, 2011. Microfinds from Destruction and Abandonment Layers in Tel Megiddo (co-supervisor – Ruth-Shahack Gross of the Weizmann Institute of Science).

Barak Sober, 2012, Character Stroke Reconstruction (co-supervisor David Levin, Department of Applied Mathematics).

Zach Dunseth. 2013. Settlement Oscillations in the Negev Highlands: Exploring Subsistence Practices during the Intermediate Bronze Age – The Site of Mashabe Sade (co-supervisor Ruth Shachak-Gross of the Weizmann Institute of Science).

Assaf Kleiman, 2014. Tel Aphek and the Central Coastal Plain during the Iron Age IIA: The Archaeological Assemblage and its Historical Implications

Erin Hall, in preparation, Hoarding at Tel Megiddo in the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age I (co-supervisor with Benjamin Sass).


Ph.D. Students

Yitzhak Meitlis, 1997. The Judean Hill Country in the Middle Bronze Age.

David Ilan, 1999. Northeastern Israel in the Iron Age I: Cultural, Economic and Political Structures and Transformations.

Assaf Yasur-Landau, 2003. Social Aspects of Aegean Settlement in the Southern Levant at the End of the Second Millennium BCE (co-supervisors - Shlomo Bunimovitz and Irad Malkin).

Alon Shavit, 2004. Settlement Patterns in the Southern Coastal Plain in the Iron II.

Yuval Gadot, 2004. Tel Aphek at the End of the Late Bronze Age and the Beginning of the Iron Age: Typological, Chronological and Cultural Implications. (co-supervisor - Moshe Kochavi).

Aharon Sasson, 2004. The Faunal Assemblage from Iron II Beer-Sheba (co-supervisors - Tamar Dayan and Ze'ev Herzog).

Norma Franklin, 2006. State Formation in the Northern Kingdom of Israel: Some Tangible Symbols of Statehood (co-supervisor - NadavNa'aman).

Liora Kolska-Horwitz, 2006. A Diachronic Study of Patterns of Animal Exploitation in the Sinai Peninsula (co-supervisor - Eitan Tchernow).

Alexander Fantalkin, 2008. The Contacts between the Greek World and the Southern Levant, ca. 1000-538 BCE (co-supervisor - Irad Malkin).

Deborah O. Cantrell, 2008. The Horsemen of Israel: (Vanderbilt University; readers: Jack Sasson, Douglas Knight, Robert Drews, Israel Finkelstein, Robin Jensen).

Arad Haggi, 2009. Harbors in Phoenicia, Israel and Philistia in the 9th - 7th Centuries BCE: Archaeology Finds and Historical Interpretation (Haifa University, co-supervisor – Michal Artzi).

Amir Sumakai-Fink. 2009. The History and Archaeology of Alalah in the Late Bronze Age (co-supervisor - Nadav Na'aman).

Yifat Thareani-Sussely, 2010. A Town in the Desert: Geographical, Economic and Sociopolitical Perspectives (co-supervisor - Nadav Na'aman).

Eran Arie, 2012. "In the Land of the Valley": Settlement, Social and Cultural Processes in the Jezreel Valley from the End of the Late Bronze Age to the Formation of the Monarchy.

David Friesem, 2014. Formation Processes Related to the Degradation of Mud Brick Structures and their Archaeological Implications (co-supervisor Ruth Shahack-Gross of the Weizmann Institute of Science).

Michael Toffolo, 2014. Correlating the Iron Age in the Eastern Mediterranean: Contexts, Site-Formation Processes and Chronology (co-supervisor Elisabetta Boaretto of the Weizmann Institute of Science).

Arie Shaus, in preparation. Analysis of Hebrew Inscriptions of the First Temple Period via Clusteringand Handwrite Recognition Algorithms (co-supervisor – Eli Turkel).

Shirly Ben-Dor Evian, in preparation. Egypt and Philistia in the early Iron Age: The Historical Record and the Archaeological Remains (co-supervisor – Deborah Sweeney).

Elon Heymans, in preparation. The Early History of Money and Monetary Exchange in the Eastern Mediterranean Iron Age (co-supervisors Alexander Fantalkin and Irad Malkin).

Karen Covello-Paran, in preparation. The Intermediate Bronze Age in the Jezreel Valley (co-supervisor Oded Lipschits).

Efrat Bocher, in preparation. The Material Culture in Judah and Samaria during the Persian Period (co-supervisor Oded Lipschits).

Ariel Winderboim, in preparation. The Iron IIA Pottery Assemblage from the Ophel Excavations in Jerusalem.

Last updated: 14.06.2015