Excavations & Field Courses

  • General Information
  • Ashdod Yam Archeological Project
  • Tel Shimron Excavations
  • The Shmunis Family Foundation Excavations at Kiriath-Jearim
  • Contact

Why Dig at Kiriath-Jearim?

  •  Explore this critically important site, close to Jerusalem, mentioned in the Bible time and again.
  •  Delve into the history of the highlands of Judah and hence, the history of ancient (biblical) Judah, as well as on the status of Jerusalem and its countryside.
  •  Shed light on the cult history of Judah and Jerusalem, including the question of whether a temple (to the God of Israel?) existed here in late-monarchic times in parallel to Jerusalem.
  •  Discover the historical background of important biblical texts, such as the Ark Narrative.
  •  Deploying cutting-edge archaeological methods and scientific techniques for the first time on a site the highlands.
  •  Have an amazing summer experience in the Holy Land!


The Site

Kiriath-Jearim is located in a commanding spot in the Judean highlands, 12 km west of Jerusalem. The Arabic name – Deir el-Azar – probably stems from the reference to Eleazar, who according to 1 Samuel 7: 1 took charge of the ark of the covenant when it was brought to Kiriath-Jearim. The identification of Deir el-Azar with biblical Kiriath-Jearim is accepted unanimously. The mound is ca. 250 x 250 m in size = 5 hectares, one of the biggest Iron Age tells in the highlands. It has not been damaged by modern construction.

The site is mentioned many times in the Bible: as a border town between the territories of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, in the Ark Narrative, the list of returnees from exile and other places. According to the Book of Samuel the ark had been captured by the Philistines following the defeat of Israel in the battle of Eben-ezer. It then spread havoc in Philistines cities and was hence returned to Beth-shemesh. From there it was taken to Kiriath-Jearim and finally brought by King David to Jerusalem. The Ark Narrative and the strong polemic against the town in the Bible hint at the existence of a temple in late-monarchic times.


The Dig

The Shmunis Family Excavations at Kiriath-jearim is a joint project of Tel Aviv University and the Collège de France, funded by Sana and Vlad Shmunis (USA). Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University and Thomas Römer and Christophe Nicolle of the Collège de France direct the project. The staff of the expedition includes French, Israeli and American archaeologists. The first season of excavation took place in the summer of 2017.

Visit The Shmunis Family Excavations at Kiriath-Jearim website for more information about the dig and ways to join the team.



Transportation to the site will be provided at the start of the season. The bus will leave from Arlozorov Bus Station in Tel Aviv at 16:30, stopping at Ben Gurion Airport. The bus will depart Ben Gurion at 17:30 for The Monastery of the Ark of the Covenant, our base during the excavation. Dinner and Orientation will take place at 19:30.



Transportation from the site will be provided also at the end of the season. The bus will depart from The Monastery of the Ark of the Covenant at 15:00 for Ben Gurion Airport and then on to Arlozorov Bus Station in Tel Aviv.


We dig Monday to Friday! Team members enjoy free weekends from Friday after lunch to Sunday evenings (we provide dinner on Sunday nights, but weekend meals are NOT provided). Note that your Expedition fee includes your room on the monastery for the weekends, but meals are NOT provided by the dig. See “Expectations” for information on eating over the weekend if you choose to stay on the monastery. Team Members are required to participate in all regular work hours. Daily excavation begins at 5:00 AM and finishes at 1:00 PM. Work is resumed back at the camp at 4:00 PM with the processing of finds, a requirement for all Team Members. Depending on daily needs, afternoon work will last between 1 and 2 hours.


Participants staying for Weeks 1-3 can register for one or both of our credit courses! The two courses that will be opened this season are: Kiriath-Jearim and the Archaeology of Jerusalem and Field Techniques in Archaeology. We offer each course for 3 undergraduate or graduate credits–please note the additional graduate credit requirements listed in each syllabus. Credits are offered through Tel Aviv University. It is possible to take both courses simultaneously, as the Field Techniques course is heavily based in the daily excavation work, while the lecture course takes place in the early evening after dinner. We are happy to discuss the courses with you further if you have specific questions. Visit The Shmunis Family Excavations at Kiriath-Jearim website for more information.


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