Khirbet Nisya: The 1990 Dig Report -- By: David Livingston

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 03:4 (Autumn 1990)
Article: Khirbet Nisya: The 1990 Dig Report
Author: David Livingston

Khirbet Nisya: The 1990 Dig Report

David Livingston

Area 77, view southeast. Behind the meter stick are large megalithic stones, possibly part of a Middle Bronze-Late Bronze I defensive structure or fortification wall. Further work must be done in this area to clarify the date and nature of these stones.


During late July and early August 1990, 19 volunteers and core staff came from nine different states to dig for two weeks at Khirbet Nisya near Ramallah, Israel. Accomodations while digging were provided by the orthodox Jewish settlement Psagot near Ramallah/El-Bireh.

The Associates for Biblical Research teams have been investigating a new site for Biblical Ai for eight seasons of digging since 1979. The necessity for this is that no one had lived at the traditional site for Ai (at Et-Tell) for at least 1000 years before the Israelites arrived. So the battle mentioned in Joshua 7 and 8 could not have taken place there. Unfortunately, the conclusion of most scholars has been that the Biblical account is wrong in this situation, not the archaeology.

ABR does not agree with that conclusion. We approach the problem from the viewpoint that if archaeology and the Bible are in con-

flict, the archaeology needs to be reexamined and, if necessary, done over. Therefore, when trying to locate Biblical Ai, since no one had been living at Et-Tell for 1000 years before Joshua’s time, the logical conclusion is that it cannot be AI. The site for Ai must be sought somewhere else.

I researched the problem for three years and published an article in The Westminster Theological Journal in 1970 with the conclusion that not only Ai was wrongly located, Bethel was also. Ancient Bethel, I con-eluded, was under modern El-Bireh instead of in the insignificant village of modern Beitin (two miles northeast of El-Bireh). Since Bethel at El-Bireh is buried under a thriving, modern city excavation there was impossible. But about a mile east of El-Bireh, on the other side of a large mountain (see Gn 12:8), was an ancient ruin called Khirbet Nisya. This site was chosen, as was mentioned in the 1970 article, as a potential site for Ai. At this site the topographical layout (hills, valleys, etc.) fits the Biblical account exactly. The geographical relationships of towns in the area of Benjamin and Ephraim also fit. Even before digging, the site seemed hopeful as the actual site for Biblical Ai.

Excavation at Khirbet Nisya was finall...

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