Archaeologists from USC, UCLA and the Middle East have developed a searchable online map that details 7,000 archeological sites on the West Bank and Jerusalem – many of them never publicy disclosed. The map – an effort to identify Israeli archaeological activity since 1967, when Israel took over the West Bank and East Jerusalem – is freely accesibly online at the USC’s Digital Library.
Built over several years through hundreds of hours of research, bolstered by freedom of information requests and, when necessary, a lawsuit in Israeli courts, the Web site provides interactive satellite maps showing locations of about 7,000 archaeological sites in the region, including:
- Shiloh, where the Bible locates the original tabernacle of the Hebrews
- Battir (Khirbet al Yahudiya), where the Romans crushed the Jewish rebellion
- the Qumran caves where the Dead Sea scrolls (the earliest copies of the Bible) were found
- many sites within Jerusalem.
Government agencies could consult the database before planning roads or other public works projects.
Tourists and history buffs could research locations of specific sites, such as early Christian churches.
Researchers soon will be able to download the entire file for use in diverse ways.
For example, the overlay of ancient sites on contemporary satellite photographs allows instant comparison of settlement patterns, which in turn may provide information on ancient stream flows and other important features.
“The significance of making this data public should not be underestimated,” said team member Ran Boytner, director for international research at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA. “For the first time, both Palestinians and Israelis can dynamically consult this interactive map and view what cultural heritage will fall under the sovereign rule of each side during final peace negotiations.”
The searchable map and database of the archaeological activity on Holy Land sites in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is part of a larger effort to devise a framework for the disposition of the regions archaeological treasures in the event of a two-state peace agreement. Boytner and Dodd explain:
Lynn Swartz Dodd described the process as seeking to ‘fill a void’ in preparation for future peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
“That void was intelligent, prepared conversation and data resources that could inform negotiation over cultural heritage and archaeology. The respective authorities and archaeological communities did not endorse the research officially, they were aware of it, and they did not intervene to stop it,” Dodd said.
This map of the archaeological landscape of the southern Levant might help define the scope of a future agreement. “Weve started a database that lets you know what to negotiate for,” Dodd said. “Each of us is committed to continuing our work so that all information about Israeli archaeological activity in the West Bank and Gaza becomes publicly accessible.” In the event of any proposal for a future border, he added, “you can draw a line on a map and know exactly where each site will fall.”
You can access the West Bank and East Jerusalem Archaeology Database at the USC Library, either using the searchable map interface or by loading the KML data into Google Earth.