Institute of Archaeology

Institute of Archaeology
at Ariel University

Institute of Archaeology

The Origins of Judaism Archaeological Project

Directed by Dr. Yonatan Adler

Judaism has often been described historically as a religious framework centered upon practice, with ritual obligations and prohibitions dictating almost every aspect of daily life. The observance of Jewish ritual practices played a central role in the day-to-day lives of Jews throughout extended periods of Jewish History, and indeed serves as a hallmark of Judaism as we know it today. But when and how did this practice-centered Judaism first emerge and develop?

Beginning with the 19th century Wissenschaft des Judentums movement, scholarship has made great strides in investigating  how various aspects of Jewish practice originated and developed over time. Unfortunately, this vitally important field of inquiry has focused its efforts almost exclusively on the evidence provided by written sources—mostly late Second Temple period Jewish literature and early rabbinic texts. Material evidence provided by archaeology was unavailable to the earlier researchers, and mostly overlooked by later ones.

Recognizing that archaeology is actually indispensable for a comprehensive understanding of the genesis and early development of Judaism, The Origins of Judaism Archaeological Project seeks to recruit data from archaeology in tandem with textual evidence with the goal of studying how ancient Judaism originated and subsequently developed over time. Archaeology and texts tend to provide very different kinds of information, and if brought together prudently, hold the potential to afford a much more comprehensive and accurate understanding of the genesis of Judaism and the ways it was observed in the ancient past.

Among the most salient topics analyzed under the aegis of The Origins of Judaism Archaeological Project are stepped immersion pools (“mikva’ot ”), chalkstone vessels, ancient tefillin (phylacteries) from the Judean Desert, and archaeozoological evidence of kashrut (dietary law) observance.

The Origins of Judaism Archaeological Project is currently engaged in archaeological fieldwork through the ‘Einot Amitai Archeological Project, and has already produced a series of articles on ancient Jewish ritual practices, their origins and their early development. Components of the project have been supported by two generous grants from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF), and by a grant from the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS).

To support the project or to get involved, please contact the project director, Dr. Yonatan Adler: