You can’t really appreciate the archeology without the history. Through archaeology, good, unbiased archaeology, that is we can discern a lot about this area and the timeframes included. However, a large portion of what makes this portion of the world so interesting – the passionate beliefs of 3 major world religions – also lead to contrary claims. I will limit this discussion to what is proven through shrewd science. If you disagree on the basis of religious principle, that’s great. You are welcomed to your opinion. These pages are not for you. If I’ve made a mistake with my accounting of the science here, please let me know in the comments and be prepared to include your sources. I can send you mine.
Also, this isn’t a complete history, just what is germane to the Dig history.
Egypt to Abraham and back again.
Over the years Jerusalem has taken many shapes. Although people settled (as best we can tell around 10,000 BC) the first to rule the area were the Egyptian Pharaohs. Around 1800 BC Abraham took his nomadic tribe from Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) and defeated the locals in what amounts to a war over water property. Eventually his descendents sought refuge in Egypt due to massive climatic change that led to a drought through out all of the area. In or around 1250 BC Moses led the people on back (via a circuitous route). They battled Philistines and Canaanites and eventually were united under Saul. Saul was defeated at Mt Gilboa by the Philistines and Israel was divided in two; the north being Israel and the south being Judah. David conquered Jerusalem (what was known as Salem) and ran his nation from that seat of power.
David to Sargon to Babylonians and a return
David established Jerusalem (then called Zion) and his son and successor Solomon created the first Temple there (965-928 BC). After Solomon’s rule ended, the people entered into a cycle of subjugation. Around 722-205 BZC, Sargon of Assyria captured Israel (remember, the northern part of Saul’s empire) and forced Judah (David’s portion) to pay tribute. That included Zion/Jerusalem. In 586 BC the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and exiled the people to what is today called Iraq. Around 50 years afterwards the Babylonians themselves would be conquered by King Cyrus of Persia and the Jews returned to the lands of Israel, Judah, and the city we know as Jerusalem.
Greeks to Hasmoneans to Romans
Greeks maintained hold of the Holy Land from the 4th century BC via Alexander the Great (whom took the land from the Persians) and Ptolemy (Alex’s general took over the area when he died in 323 BC). Around 200 BC, the Seleucids (another off shoot of Alexander) took control. In particular, in Jerusalem, they displaced the Jewish priests from the Temple. That came to a head in 167 BC when Judah Maccabee rose up to conquer an area just about the size of David’s. This led to the establishment of the Hasmonean dynasty – something which the Roman Empire found to be a very effective buffer between their grain fields in Egypt and the Parthian (Persian) Empire.
Rome liked having the Hasmoneans as a client state but they fought amongst themselves too much. Rome grew tired of this and intervened in 63 BC. They would then either rule via proxy (like Hasmonean marry-in King Herod) or through a Procurator like Pontius Pilate. This ultimately led to more war and in 66AD Rome crushed what is known as the First Jewish Revolt and sacked the temple in 70 AD thus ending what is referred to as the Second Temple Period. This wouldn’t be the end of Rome’s influence in Jerusalem for they expelled the Jews and renamed the city to Aelia Capitolina after putting down the 2nd Jewish Rebellion under Emperor Hadrian.
Christians & Muslims
Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Empire in 313AD and his mother Helena went around consecrating sites associated with Jesus’ life, several in Jerusalem. 638 Caliph Omar conquered Jerusalem bringing Islam to the city but Christian pilgrimages were allowed until 1071 when the Seljuk Turks invaded prompting the Pope to call for the crusades. In 1099 Crusading Christians would take the city but the crusades would continue for 200 more years. In 1187 Saladin the Saracen (of Kurdish origin) would take the city.
Ottomans, British, UN, and Modern Israel
1516 would see Palestine fall to the hands of the Ottomans for some 400 years until the British would take it at the conclusion of World War 1. They would turn it over to the UN which would ultimately lead to the 2 month Arab-Israeli war.