Died: Eilat Mazar, Archaeologist Who Believed the Bible

In 50 years of excavation, she connected modern Israel to Hebrew kings and prophets.

Eilat Mazar, a nonreligious archaeologist who embraced the unfashionable idea of digging with a shovel in one hand and a Bible in the other, died Tuesday at 64.

In her five decades excavating the Holy Land, Mazar discovered the remains of a palace believed to belong to King David, a gate identified with King Solomon, a wall thought to have been built by Nehemiah, two clay seals that name the captors of the prophet Jeremiah, seals that name King Hezekiah, and a seal that may have belonged to the prophet Isaiah.

Once called the “queen of Jerusalem archaeology,” Mazar took the Bible seriously as a historical text and quarreled with scholars who thought it was unscientific to pay too much attention to Scripture.

“Look,” she told Christianity Today in 2011, “when I’m excavating Jerusalem, and when I’m excavating at the city of David, and when I’m excavating near the Kidron Valley and near the Gihon Spring and at the Ophel—these are all biblical terms. So it’s not like I’m here because it’s some anonymous place. This is Jerusalem, which we know best from the Bible.”

Mazar said she was not religious but would pore over the Bible, reading it repeatedly, “for it contains within it descriptions of genuine historical reality.”

Mazar sometimes literally took directions from the sacred text. In 1997, she wrote about how 2 Samuel 5:17 describes David going down from his palace to a fortification. Assuming that was an accurate description and looking at the topography of Jerusalem, she identified the place where David’s palace should be. In 2005, she was able to start excavation at the site, and almost immediately discovered evidence she was right—and …

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