Prof. Uzi Leibner is the head of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and co-directs the renewed Ophel Excavations in Jerusalem (with O. Peleg-Barkat). His research interests lie in landscape archaeology, Second Temple period Judaism, rural settlements, ancient synagogues, ancient Jewish art, and the integration of archaeological material and historical sources. Before moving to excavate in Jerusalem he conducted field work in the Galilee for over two decades. His major previous projects were the Eastern Galilee Survey – documenting the history of settlement in the Eastern Lower Galilee during the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods; excavations at the Roman-period village and synagogue of Khirbet Wadi Ḥamam in the Eastern Lower Galilee, and; the Hellenistic Galilee Project, which dealt with ethnicity, material culture and settlement patterns in the Galilee during the Hellenistic period and was based on excavations at a key site named Khirbet el-'Eika, accompanied by a survey of Hellenistic-period sites across the Lower Galilee. He has authored three archaeological books and some sixty scientific articles.
February Bible & Archaeology Fest 2024
At the Temple Gates: Pilgrimage in the Late Second Temple period in light of the renewed excavations at the Ophel with Orit Peleg-Barkat
The pilgrimage to the Jerusalem Temple was one of the major components of Second Temple-period Judaism. Despite the plethora of references to this phenomenon in ancient sources, little is known about its actual reality. The Ophel, at the southern gates to the Temple precinct, was a central public hub for pilgrims flocking there from Judea and the diaspora, gathering here before entering to the Temple. Excavations have been conducted here since the 19th century, the major ones conducted by Benjamin Mazar in the 1970’s, uncovering significant remains from this period (largely unpublished).
A new project of the Hebrew University investigates the archaeology of pilgrimage to the Jerusalem temple through renewed excavations at the Ophel, combined with the study of remains and finds from Mazar’s excavations. The project enables to examine how the area was designed to serve the myriads of pilgrims and reconstruct their social, ritual, and economic activities by the Temple gates by studying: (a) the urban planning of the Ophel and its development from the late Hellenistic period until the destruction of the city in 70 CE; (b) economic and behavioral aspects of the pilgrimage by using advanced research methods to examine the rich assemblage of unearthed artifacts. Together with archaeological evidence on pilgrimage from elsewhere in Jerusalem and its environs, and information gained from historical sources and comparative studies of pilgrimage to other destinations, it enables to present a comprehensive reconstruction of the pilgrimage to the Jerusalem temple, which is of supreme historical and religious significance.