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Rockefeller Archaeological Museum

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Basic Information

Location 27 Sultan Suleman St.,Sheikh Jarrah/East Jerusalem
Phone number 02-670-8011
Country Israel
City Jerusalem
Address 27 Sultan Suleman St.,Sheikh Jarrah/East Jerusalem

General Information

Open to visitors yes
Need appointment yes
Handicap accessibility yes
Website http://www.gojerusalem.com/discover/item_201/The-Rockefeller-Archaeological-Museum
Geographical Coordinates 31.76832,35.21371


The Rockefeller Museum, formerly the Palestine Archaeological Museum, is an archaeological museum located in East Jerusalemthat houses a large collection of artifacts unearthed in the excavations conducted in Mandate Palestine, in the 1920's and 1930's. The museum is under the management of the Israel Museum and houses the head office of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

History and time period

In 1906, the Jewish National Fund planned to purchase a site known as Karm el-Sheikh to house the Bezalel School of Art and Crafts. The founder of the school, Boris Schatz envisaged a museum and university that would overlook the Temple Mount. In 1919, British Mandate authorities designated the site for an archaeological museum. Visiting Palestine in 1925, during the days of the British Mandate, James Henry Breasted, founder and director of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, decided that Jerusalem needed an archaeological museum to house important regional finds. Encouraged by Lord Plumer, the British High Commissioner, Breasted approached American philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who agreed to donate two million dollars toward the project. Previously, he had offered to build an archaeological museum in Cairo, Egypt, but he was turned down, possibly due to pressure from the British government, which was anxious to keep America from establishing a foothold in the region. The museum was built on hill located opposite the northeastern corner of the Old City walls known as Karm al-Sheikh. The museum was designed by Austen Harrison, (Austen St. Barbe Harrison), chief architect of the Mandatory Department of Public Works, who drew up blueprints for a white limestone building integrating eastern and western architectural elements. The cornerstone of the new museum was laid on June 19, 1930, although it only opened to the public on January 13, 1938. Officially, it was called the Palestine Archaeological Museum, but was also known as the Rockefeller Museum. Until the final days of the Mandate period, the museum was administered by the Palestine Government.In April 1948, the High Commissioner appointed a council of international trustees to administer the museum. The council consisted of twelve members: two representing the High Commissioner, one from the British Academy, one from the British Museum, one from the French National Academy, one from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, two from the Antiquities Departments of the Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi or Transjordanian governments; one from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, one from the Royal Swedish Academy, one from the American Institute of Archaeology, and one from the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem.

Shortly after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the museum became a secondary headquarters of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, headed by Gerald Lankester Harding until 1956. The museum was run by an international board of trustees until 1966, when it was nationalized by King Hussein during the Jordanian occupation of the West Bank. Soon after, the 1967 Six-Day War broke out and control of the museum fell into Israeli hands. During the war, the building was captured by Israeli soldiers and its hexagonal tower was used as a lookout. Fierce fighting took place here between Israeli and Jordanian forces, culminating in an Israeli victory. The Museum was then officially renamed as the Rockefeller Museum. Since 1967, the museum has been jointly managed by the Israel Museum and the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums (later renamed Israel Antiquities Authority). Inside the courtyard of the museum stands one of the oldest pine trees in the country. According to Arab legend, on the site of this pine tree, Ezra the Scribe sat and wrote the Torah for Israel.

Opening Hours

Sunday , Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 10:00 to 15:00; Saturday and Holidays 10:00 to 14:00; Tuesday and Friday closed


The museum's first curator was John H. Iliffe, who arranged the artifacts in chronological order, from two million years ago to 1700 CE. Among the museum's prized possessions are 8th-century wooden panels from the al-Aqsa Mosque and 12th-century (Crusader-period) marble lintels from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Most of the collection consists of finds from the 1920s and 1930's. On display are artifacts unearthed in Jerusalem, Megiddo, Ashkelon, Lachish, Samaria, and Jericho. Talmudic-era displays include a sixth-century mosaic floor, discovered in an ancient synagogue in Ein Gedi featuring a curse in Judeo-Aramaic that reads: “Anyone who neglects his family, provokes conflict, steals property, slanders his friends or reveals the secret of Ein Gedi’s balsam industry is cursed.” Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered at Qumran between 1947 and 1956, consisting of Jewish texts and commentaries, were housed in the Rockefeller Museum. In 1967, following the Israeli invasion of East Jerusalem, the scrolls were seized by Israeli forces and relocated to the Shrine of the Book, a specially designed building on the grounds of the Israel Museum, with the ownership of these scrolls having been heavily contested ever since. The Copper Scroll was taken to the Jordan Archaeological Museum in Amman.

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