Israel’s Top Archaeological Sites
With a history as rich and extensive as Israel, it should come as no surprise that it is packed with an abundance of significant archaeological sites. Spanning through numerous periods and cultures, the discoveries that have been made hold immeasurable historical, cultural, and religious importance. With over 75 listed archaeological sites in Israel, it would not be feasible to visit every site on one trip. For this reason, we have compiled a list of the top ten archaeological sites that can be enjoyed on your next vacation to Israel.
In spite of the extreme historical, cultural, and religious significance of the Temple Mount, very few archaeological excavations have been performed due to the political sensitivity that exists there. The most well-known areas of excavation are the Western Wall and Southern Wall. The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is one of the most sacred sites in Israel. People come from all over the world to pray at the wall as King Solomon did when he asked God to hear everyone who came to pray there so they would know God and his power. The Western Wall Tunnels were found to contain structures from the Herodian, Umayyad, Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Hasmonean periods, as well as the Western Stone, the biggest stone in the Western Wall. The Southern wall underwent digs in the 1960s that uncovered Umayyad palaces and buildings that have since been preserved and turned into an archaeological park.
The City of David is where King David established his kingdom and is where the city of Jerusalem began. It is now an archaeological park, which traces the history of Jerusalem and displays the remnants of houses, a water tunnel known as Warren’s Shaft, towers, and the tunnel of Shiloh.
The Tower of David is a citadel in the Old City of Jerusalem and is also known as the Jerusalem Citadel. Today it attracts visitors for its stunning sound and light Night Spectacular Show that appears on the citadel’s walls. However, there is much more to the tower than this contemporary treat. The archaeological discoveries that have been uncovered here reveal 2,000 years of history, including a quarry dating back to the First Temple Period.
Situated on the Israeli coastline between Tel Aviv and Haifa, Caesarea Maritima was an ancient city built by Herod the Great and served as the center of early Christianity. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, archaeological excavations revealed remains from a number of different periods. Today the ruins are a national park where visitors can explore the Roman Theater, hippodrome, aqueduct, moat, and more
Akko’s roots date back to the Bronze Age and contain evidence of many different cultures, including the Canaanites, “Sea Peoples”, the Phoenicians, Persians, Hellenistic Greeks, the Crusaders, and the Ottomans. With so many cultures through so many centuries, it is not surprising that there are significant archaeological finds in this ancient port city. Akko, also known as Acre, is considered to be the most well preserved Crusader city in the world and most of the remains that can be seen today are from the Crusader Period.
One of the most famous sites of Israel, Masada is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. Originally built by Herod the Great in 30 BCE, it served as a mountain fortress with stunning views of the Dead Sea. However, it is not the views that draw visitors to this site. Masada is best known for the courage and sacrifice that was displayed by Jewish zealots who defended the stronghold against the Romans. In 73 BCE, the remaining 960 zealots became martyrs when they chose to commit suicide rather than surrender to the Roman soldiers. Today, visitors can reflect on this momentous sacrifice and explore the archaeological ruins that remain high on the mountaintop.
Qumran is the archaeological site made famous for the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. From a distance, visitors can see the opening of the cave where the ancient scrolls were found. They can also explore the ruins of Qumran, dating back to the Second Temple Period. These ruins contain the remnants of a water system, cisterns, a pool, and several rooms, including the “scriptorium” where it is believed that the Dead Sea Scrolls could have potentially been written.
Tours of Israel often direct visitors to some of the most important sites in relation to the Christian faith. Qumran is one of those sites as it is the location where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Looking over the Dead Sea and located right on the edge of the Judean Wilderness, visitors can see rooms where scribes likely sat copying scrolls, a dining hall, a ritual bath and more. Qumran attracts so many visitors that a visitor center has been built which was designed in the fashion of Qumran’s original buildings and a fabulous film has been created that goes over the history of Qumran.
Located in the prime position where the Jordan River Valley and Jezreel Valley intersect, Beit She’an has been occupied during a long list of historical periods, including the Bronze Age, Egyptian period, Biblical Period, Biblical Period, Hellenistic Period, Roman Period, Byzantine Period, Arab Caliphate Period, Crusader Period, Mamluk Period, Ottoman Period, and the British Mandate. The archaeological sites contain impressive ruins that make visitors feel like they are walking through time to experience history firsthand. Remnants of a Roman hippodrome, a Byzantine home, a Crusader castle, and a Mamluk mosque are among the ruins that can be explored in Beit She’an.
While the future of Megiddo is well known as the site of the battle of Armageddon, its past should not be overlooked. Due to its location, Megiddo was an important stop on the ancient trade route that connected Egypt to Assyria. For this reason it has hosted an abundance of different cultures throughout history. Several archaeological excavations have been performed here. These excavations uncovered ivory carvings, stables, a church, and jewelry dating back to 1100 BCE.
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, Beit She’arim is an archaeological site known for its ancient rock-cut Jewish tombs from the 2nd to 4th century AD. The necropolis consists of a system of over 30 burial caves and is considered the oldest known extensive Jewish cemetery in the world.
By Noam Matas, General Manager of America Israel Travel.
America Israel Travel offers customized tour packages to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Greece.
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