Khirbet el-Mastarah

Investigating the Earliest Israelites

Are you obsessed with the Book of Joshua and the question of early Israelite origins? Are the terms “conquest model,” “peaceful infiltration model,” and “peasants’ revolt model” part of your everyday vocabulary? Do you lie awake at night wondering how the earliest Israelites really originated in the ancient land of Canaan? If so, then you should definitely volunteer to work on the pioneering new excavation at Khirbet el-Mastarah, located just west of the Jordan River in what may have been the area of the earliest Israelite settlement.

Biblical Archaeology: From the Ground Down

How does a dig team work? What do archaeologists look for at a dig? In this documentary DVD, learn how excavators work and what we can learn from archaeology. More information.

This intriguing site, located in the Jordan Valley, 6 miles north of Jericho, is one of the important “complex enclosures” discovered by Adam Zertal in his survey of the region. This site is fairly large and includes a number of houses, animal pens, hints of walls and numerous cairns, and is dated to the time of the first settlement of the Tribes of Israel, as described in the Book of Joshua. The location of the site is unusual, however, in that it is situated on a knoll in the fork of a wadi and surrounded by hills on three sides, completely hidden from its surroundings.
Join dig directors David Ben-Shlomo and Ralph Hawkins in this pioneering project in a land which is archaeologically almost unknown. This summer, the team will investigate the site, its date and its material culture and will examine its relationship to early Israelite culture, as well as try to fathom its unusual location. The expedition will examine the question of whether there is any evidence that the settlers inhabiting the site represent people or tribes native to the land, or whether they arrived from east of the Jordan River.

David Ben-Shlomo

David Ben-ShlomoDr. David Ben-Shlomo is Codirector of the Khirbet el-Mastarah excavation project. He serves as an associate professor of archaeology at Ariel University. He is coeditor of Judea and Samaria Research Studies.

Ralph Hawkins

Ralph HawkinsDr. Ralph Hawkins is Codirector of the Khirbet el-Mastarah excavation project. He serves as Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Averett University, in Danville, Virginia, where he is also an associate professor of Hebrew Bible and archaeology.

Dig Directors

David Ben-Shlomo
Ralph Hawkins

Geographic Location

5 miles north of Jericho

Periods of Occupation

Iron Age I – II

Dates of the Dig

June 3 – 30, 2017

Minimum Stay

Two weeks

Application Due

March 1, 2017


$2,400 for the full season (airfare not included). Half-season is available to volunteers for $1,200 (airfare not included), as well as a three-week season for $1,800 (airfare not included). Prices include a full program of weekend tours.

Academic Credit/Cost per Credit/Institution

Yes, through Averett University. For more information, call Averett University’s IDEAL Program office at 1-800-283-7388, ext. 14949.


The team will lodge in Jerusalem at the Capitol Hotel, two per room, with air-conditioning, three meals a day and a spacious garden. The hotel is located just a four-minute walk from the Old City Walls and provides an ideal base for daily strolls to and from the major historical and Biblical sites of the Holy City.


Dr. David Ben-Shlomo
Israel Heritage Department
Ariel 40700
Phone: 00972547451567

Dr. Ralph Hawkins
Dept. of Religious Studies
Averett University
420 West Main St.
Danville, VA 24541
Phone: (434) 773-3995

Open for tours

Yes — by appointment