Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Digging at Armageddon Volume 52 Number 6, November/December 1999
by Neil Asher Silberman, Israel Finkelstein, David Ussishkin, and Baruch Halpern

No archaeological site in the world is so strongly associated with cosmic disaster as Megiddo, a prominent tel in northern Israel identified by many historians and theologians as the earthly location of Armageddon, the scene of the final, apocalyptic battle between the forces of Good and Evil at the End of Days. Prophecies of judgment and destruction aside, archaeologists have been drawn to Megiddo for more than a century by the possibility of uncovering the streets, citadels, palaces, and storehouses of the royal city that is mentioned eight times in the Bible. The evidence they have uncovered attests its status as one of the most important and strategically sensitive cities in the ancient Near East.

New methods of excavation and scientific testing now being applied at Megiddo are offering archaeologists a chance to reevaluate how city, state, and empire interacted and occasionally collided in ancient Near Eastern history, and how such events were interpreted in biblical accounts. The current expedition from Tel Aviv University in partnership with Pennsylvania State University and other institutions is specifically interested in Megiddo's economic and political prominence. Clues now being found at six locations scattered across the 25-acre surface of the tel include artifacts, architecture, animal bones, and plant remains, as well as patterns of satellite agricultural settlements. Together, they offer a fascinating picture of state-formation and social evolution in the Bronze Age (3500-1150 B.C.) and Iron Age (ca. 1150-500 B.C.) that does not always mesh with the traditional biblical descriptions of Megiddo's history.

Neil Asher Silberman is a contributing editor of ARCHAEOLOGY. Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin of Tel Aviv University and Baruch Halpern of Pennsylvania State University are co-directors of the current Megiddo Expedition, which also includes Loyola Marymount, the University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Rostock.

© 1999 by the Archaeological Institute of America