Re-excavating Jerusalem: from the Archive of Dame Kathleen Kenyon’s Excavations (1961-1967)

The British Academy’s Schweich lectures are a highly regarded forum on Biblical Archaeology and have been delivered since 1908. In 2016, CBRL member Dr Kay Prag was invited to give the three papers for the Schweich lectures on: Re-excavating Jerusalem: from the Archive of Dame Kathleen Kenyon’s Excavations (1961-1967). 

Here Dr Prag gives more details her Schweich lectures and their publication.  

“In December 2018 my Schweich lectures were published by Oxford University Press. The timing of the publication coincided with the centenary of CBRL’s founding institute, the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem; a perfect way to celebrate this anniversary.  

One of the prime movers in the foundation of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem in 1919 was Sir Frederic Kenyon. His daughter, Dame Kathleen Kenyon, was instrumental in refounding a base for the School in Jerusalem in the 1950s and 60s. In 2002 the School was renamed the Kenyon Institute in honour of their contribution. 

Kathleen Kenyon’s excavations in Jerusalem provided me, as so many others at both Jericho and Jerusalem, with the opportunity to experience, not just the archaeology of the region, but also to experience the country and its people. To have worked under her leadership was an immense privilege. Kenyon’s Jerusalem excavations provided evidence of nearly every period of the city’s long history, all recorded in the archive that is now housed in the Manchester Museum. What makes the importance and excitement of such archives, which preserve not just the record, is that they also provide the opportunity to review conclusions in the light of new discoveries and new processes. The multi-authored ‘final’ reports on this major work now occupy six volumes and the work is on-going.  

The invitation from the British Academy to deliver the Schweich Lectures in 2016 provided me with a personal opportunity to reflect on several aspects of the results described by Kenyon, and how they relate to the vast amount of excavation that has been done in Jerusalem since 1968. The notebooks and nearly 3,000 fine photographs contain unpublished details relating to all periods, including the biblical periods, to the town ascribed to the time of Solomon, to the Post-Exilic period, and to the Roman destruction in AD 70. In some respects, the remains of most recent times were the best preserved and the Islamic finds are equally rewarding. 

I am grateful to the British Academy for the invitation to deliver the lectures and for facilitating the publication. Dedicating the book to Kathleen Kenyon’s memory and to mark the centenary of the CBRL acknowledges the debt so many, like me, owe to both Kathleen Kenyon and to the CBRL.” 

Kay Prag 

14 February 2019 


The British Academy Schweich Lectures on Biblical Archaeology – in 1907, in memory of her father Leopold, Miss Constance Schweich endowed a fund ‘devoted to the furtherance of research in the archaeology, art, history, languages and literature of Ancient Civilisation, with reference to Biblical Study’. One fruit of the fund was the foundation of this lecture series. The lecture was first delivered in 1908.