Edward Robinson

Archaeology in Israel

Edward Robinson is the Father of Biblical Archeology. He is the first archeologist in the Holy Land that conducted excavations like a scholar. Primarily interested in locating places mentioned in the Bible and mapping the geography of the region. Although none of these men were trained archaeologists, they made important contributions to what would become the field of Biblical Archeology.

Pride of place goes to the American minister Edward Robinson (who died in 1863). While not the first to begin working on biblical questions in Biblical Palestine (As it was known then). Robinson became the most prominent person of his era to do so. Born in Connecticut in 1794, he was an ordained Congregationalist minister as well as a biblical scholar and explorer. Combining his passions, he toured Palestine in 1838 accompanied by an American missionary named Eli Smith; who was fluent in Arabic. Their goal was to identify as many sites mentioned in the Bible as possible. In other words, to create a historical (and biblical) geography of Palestine.

Edward Robinson & Eli Smith Travel Palestine

They did so by matching the modern Arabic name to ancient Hebrew names. So that for instance, they identified modern Beitan as ancient Bethel. Robinson and Smith succeeded in identifying about one hundred biblical sites during their travels. Though they had little more equipment than a compass; telescope; and measuring tapes; plus copies of the Bible in both English and Hebrew.

The results of their initial explorations were published in three volumes just a few years later. Edward Robinson returned to Palestine in 1852 and subsequently published another volume. In the course of his work, he not only identified dozens of more biblical sites to his own satisfaction but a variety of other remnants from antiquity as well, including an arch at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is still called Robinson’s Arch. Robinson’s identifications were not always completely accurate; of course, nor did he succeed in locating all of the ancient sites for which he was searching. At one point, he stood atop Tell el-Mutesellim, a seventy-foot-tall mountain in the Jezreel Valley. Which he did not recognize as being man-made—gazing out into the valley towards Mount Tabor and Mount Gilboa; wondering aloud where the famous site of Megiddo might be.

Edward Robinson knew that it must be somewhere close. But it never dawned on him that he was actually standing on it at that very moment. And that there were at least twenty different levels of habitation stacked one on top of another within the ancient mound underneath his feet. He was unable to locate either Jericho or Lachish for the same reason; for he never realized that the prominent tells dotting the landscape of the Holy Land were actually the remains of ancient sites.

The Siloam Tunnel

One of the best examples to demonstrate that Edward was a true pioneer was concerning the Siloam Tunnel. He was the very first individual walking the tunnel and conducting an archaeological survey. He did that after hearing from local Arabs that there is a connection between the Gihon Spring and “the Siloam Spring”. But he did not realize we are talking about the same source of water.


Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history.

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