Archaeology of the Bible Lands (Online)

Course details

From £280.00
10 CATS points

Wed 29 Apr 2020 - Fri 10 Jul 2020

Archaeology of the Bible Lands (Online)


This course introduces students to the discovery of the ancient southern Levant, first by biblical scholars and later, as their discipline developed, by archaeologists. The course aims to explore the vibrant material world of the region from the second millennium to the early Roman period.

The southern Levant - home to three of the world''s major religions - has long excited the interest of the west. Explorers and scholars of the nineteenth century, often inspired by the Bible, laid the foundations for the archaeological discovery of the region. The course investigates the archaeological richness of the Canaanite and Israelite worlds of the second and first millennia B.C., considers the evidence for Assyrian and Persian domination as well as discussing the material complexities of life under Roman rule. It is designed for those wishing to acquire an understanding of the nature of archaeological evidence including recent research, and the extent to which it can be used to illustrate or supplement biblical and historical narratives.

For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.

Programme details

1. The rediscovery of the southern Levant: from pilgrims to archaeologists

  • Physical geography of the southern Levant
  • The idea of the Levant: From pilgrims to archaeologists
  • The idea of the Levant: Edward Robinson and his heirs
  • Biblical archaeology and archaeology
  • Relative and absolute chronologies

2. Canaanite city-states in the Middle Bronze Age

  • Canaan and the outside world
  • Earliest written evidence
  • Fortifications
  • Urban life
  • The Hyksos and the end of the Middle Bronze Age

3. Canaanite religion

  • Canaanite gods and goddesses
  • Canaanite temples
  • Religious images, figurines and cult paraphernalia
  • Burial customs

4. Egyptian rule and international trade in the Late Bronze Age

  • Diplomacy
  • International trade
  • The evidence from shipwrecks
  • Egyptian centres in the Levant
  • Egyptian rule
  • The effects of Egyptian imperialism

5. The coming of the Israelites

  • The date of the conquest: Textual sources
  • The Biblical account and archaeological destructions
  • Archaeology: Change or continuity
  • Indigenous models of change

6. The Philistines

  • The Sea Peoples: Egyptian records
  • Philistines in the Bible
  • Philistine settlement
  • Philistine religion

7. The united monarchy from Saul to Solomon

  • The problem of chronology
  • Further discussion on chronology
  • Urban planning: Gates, walls and stables
  • Palaces
  • Solomon’s temple

8. Life and death in the Israelite world

  • Urban planning: Houses and water
  • Water systems
  • Writing and administration
  • Religious practice beyond the temple
  • Burial customs

9. The Assyrian, Babylonian and Achaeminid domination

  • Historical events: the Assyrians-Babylonians
  • The Siege of Lachish
  • Assyrian domination
  • The Achaemenids
  • The Hellenistic period

10. Life and death in the Roman empire

  • Qumran
  • Roman cities of Palestine
  • Herod the Great’s building projects
  • Burial practices

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.

Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following texts:

Mazar, A., Archaeology of the Land of the Bible 10,000-586 B.C.E. (any edition)


Background Reading:

The bibliography on the southern Levant is vast and not always reliable. This is a selected list of introductory texts. Further reading on particular topics will be given with each topic covered.

Murphy-O'Connor, J., The Holy Land. An Oxford Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (1998) Oxford, OUP

Davis, T.W., Shifting Sands. The rise and fall of Biblical Archaeology (2004)., Oxford, OUP

King, P.J. and Stager, L.E. Life in Biblical Israel (2001). London: Westminster John Knox Press.

Nakhai, B.A., Archaeology and the Religions of Canaan and Israel (2001), Boston, ASOR

Pritchard, J.B., The Ancient Near East: an anthology of text and pictures (1975), Princeton, PUP

Tubb, J., Peoples of the Past, Canaanites (1998), London, British Museum - good images of sites and links to related webpages


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

For more information on CATS point please click on the link below:

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting both course assignments and actively participating in the course forums. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.


Home/EU Fee: £280.00
Non-EU Fee: £300.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Bjornar Storfjell

Dr J Bjornar Storfjell is a native of Norway but has spent most of his life in the USA and the UK. Before completing his doctoral degree doing research on the Byzantine Period at Tell Hesban, Jordan, he lectured in Beirut, Lebanon for three years.

Storfjell taught Near Eastern archaeology and Semitic languages at Andrews University in Michigan for nearly two decades. During this period he participated in four excavation projects in Jordan and Israel and three projects in Michigan, including a marine excavation in Lake Michigan.

Since leaving America he has carried out archaeological excavations in Azerbaijan sponsored by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has also excavated in Russia as the last archaeologist to work for the late Norwegian explorer, Thor Heyerdahl.

Storfjell has published a dozen articles and half a dozen book reviews in academic and semi-popular journals as well as nine books and book chapters. He has presented more than twenty papers at academic conferences, among them the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Archaeological Institute of America, and the Palestine Exploration Fund, and the British Museum, and at semi-popular venues like the National Geographic Society, the American Scandinavian Foundation, the Azerbaijan Natural History Group, and the Anglo-Azerbaijani Society.


Course aims

This course aims to introduce the participant to the discovery of the biblical world in the 19th and 20th centuries and to show how two very different disciplines - biblical studies and archaeology - came together to form the new discipline of Biblical archaeology. Case studies will be used to show the usefulness and limitations of archaeology in recreating biblical worlds.

Course objectives:

This course will enable students to:

  • Understand the variety and complexity of the material and historical evidence from the southern Levant.
  • Develop critical awareness of the context of the evidence, in particular the problems caused by the history of certain excavations and developments in archaeological techniques, and to appreciate how these affect our understanding of the world reflected in the bible.
  • Recognise the main features of life in the southern Levant in the Canaanite, Israelite and Roman periods.
  • Discuss some of the more contentious issues (such as archaeological evidence for the Israelite conquest) that have been debated by scholars.
  • Critically analyse and discuss set written, visual and material evidence.

Teaching methods

  • Guided reading of particular texts
  • Guided use of particular websites
  • Use of tutor notes and handouts
  • Discussions of particular issues and responses to reading in the unit forms
  • Close critical analyses of particular pieces of visual, written and material evidence
  • Two quizzes (not assessed)

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:

  • The significant features of each archaeological period from the 2nd millennium B.C. to the first century A.D. and the problems involved in understanding them.
  • How the excavation and study of the southern Levant has been influenced by changes in biblical history and archaeological theory and practice.
  • The limitations and possibilities of historical and archaeological evidence.
  • Some of the main issues currently being discussed by archaeologists, historians and biblical scholars

By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • Ability to assess the context and importance of different types of evidence
  • Ability to think laterally across a range of issues, to see how different types of evidence interrelate
  • Ability to critically discuss particular issues in a clear and effective manner

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment of 500 words due half way through the course and one longer assignment of 1500 words due at the end of the course.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.