Update: The Archaeological Excavations in Tel Rumeida, Hebron
Since January 2014 the Israeli Antiquities Authority has been conducting an archaeological excavation in Tel Rumeida in Hebron. In the first month, the excavation took place in an area known as Lot 52 (See attached map). To the disappointment of the excavators, it turned out that most of the bedrock was too high and hardly any ancient remains were found. The excavation has not yet been published, although based on visits to the area it appears that the main findings are remains of agricultural implements and of ancient walls. These remains are not of exceptional significance in archaeological excavations, and thus we presume that the area will not comprise a tourist attraction in the archaeological park that is planned in Tel Rumeida. In addition, the excavation revealed Muslim tombs, which were removed in the course of the dig. Without a proper publication of the excavators we won’t be able to date the tombs, although their style leaves no doubt as to their identification as Muslim tombs.
These days an archaeological excavation is taking place in Lot 53 (See Map). In a large part of this area, no archaeological remains have been uncovered. From the little that is revealed, it is possible to identify parts of walls and agricultural equipment. In the eastern section of Lot 53 a large compound was revealed, which is dated by the excavators to the early Roman period (First Century BCE). Until now, this is the central structure that the excavation has unearthed. The First Century BCE is identified as the Second Temple period in the Jewish tradition. This is one of the important eras in the history of the Jewish people and the public takes a great interest in it.
Apparently the excavation is due to be completed several weeks after the Passover holiday. The relatively small quantity of the finds enables the excavators to complete their work more quickly than anticipated. The next stage of the project will be the cleaning of the archaeological remains that had been found in earlier excavations (in the 1960s and 1980s), which unearthed important finds from ancient Hebron: For instance, a wall dating to the Middle Bronze period (18th-17th centuries BCE) and evidence of structures from the Iron age (11th-10th centuries BCE). These eras are identified with the Patriarchs and the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, respectively. According to the Bible, King David established his capital in Hebron for a period of seven years, prior to conquering Jerusalem. The remains from these periods are significant in the creation of an archaeological park with historical relevance.
The small number of finds unearthed in Lots 52 and 53 necessitate that the park initiators will have to focus on the sites of the earlier excavations. In distinction from Lots 52 and 53, which are identified as having Jewish ownership, the ownership of the areas excavated in the 20th century is unclear. If the Palestinians can prove their ownership of these areas, they will be able to prevent the continuation of the excavation in the direction of their lands. Even if this is the case, we doubt whether the settlers in Hebron will easily give up on the excavation.
In conclusion, it is possible to say that the excavation in Tel Rumeidah has not uncovered exceptional finds as the excavators or settlers may have hoped. It appears that the future of the archaeological park depends on the struggle over the ownership of the lands where excavations occurred in the 20th century. Still, it is doubtful that the settlers’ plans will change. It is safe to assume that from their perspective, the development of an archaeological part is still the main goal.
Emek Shaveh, cc.
 Nir Hasson, Israeli government funding dig in Palestinian Hebron, near Jewish enclave, Haaretz, 9 January 2014