From Studying Text to Uncovering the Bible: An Interview with Sabine Kleiman

How working in archaeology can change your life

Sabine Kleiman, photographed here during the 2014 Season, holding a Late Bronze Age flask.

We recently sat down with Sabine Kleiman, a PhD researcher at Tel Aviv University’s Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology, and Area Supervisor of Area T2 at Tel Azekah, to learn what inspired her get out from behind the books of biblical scholarship that she once studied in Germany, and uncover the archaeology of the Bible with her own hands as an archaeologist at Tel Azekah, Israel.

Sabine was originally a student of Theology at The University of Heidelberg, with a focus on Old Testament Studies. When her university offered a seminar with a field trip to Ramat Rahel (an archaeological site outside of Jerusalem), she jumped at the chance to try something new. With her focus on the Old Testament, Sabine decided that she wanted to go to the source of text, and realised that it was far more rewarding to uncover the source archaeologically, with her bare hands. In 2007 Sabine volunteered to excavate at Ramat Rahel for the first time, and was thrilled by the experience. As she explains, many Germans, such as herself, don’t travel outside of Europe very often. As such, the dig was an amazing opportunity to experience of how to live in a different culture and meet people from all over the world. Working with a diverse group of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, Sabine was exposed to different religious views; even those from among her fellow Christians, which exposed her to world views that she did not often encounter back in Germany.

Sabine found that her experience living and working in Israel had a huge impact on her because the country has so much to offer in such a small space. As she put it, in one day you can be in the desert in the south, and then later travel to the waterfalls of the north. She was also impacted by the openness of the Israeli people, which was quite different from Germany. After 2007, Sabine was hooked, and came once a year to excavate. By 2012, when the Tel Azekah excavation began, Sabine was invited to become part of the staff as an Assistant Area Supervisor from the outset. This motivated her to live in Israel full time, where she conducted her MA and PhD on pottery and ceramic production in the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. Sabine’s work with Tel Aviv University has led to the completion of her MA at the Tel Aviv University International Program, and several publications.

Sabine working in Area T2, handling the intact finds of the Late Bronze Age destruction.
Azekah provided Sabine with an in-depth look at the history of the Bible through the unique strata present at the site. Sabine explained that Tel Azekah holds much more value than simply the location of the biblical story of David and Goliath. Sabine believes that her area, T2, is one of the most exciting areas at the site, and for good reason: the excavation of T2 has uncovered a Late Bronze Age destruction layer with multiple items found in situ. There are occupational phases that encompass the Early Bronze Age all the way to the Byzantine Period, a span of almost 2000 years of ancient settlement history. As Sabine explains,

“To be the first ones to touch such antique items, which are over 3000 years old, for the first time, was an awe-inspiring experience! When you excavate something like a destruction layer, you have this moment where you realise that what you are excavating there is real, and it happened. The remains of the destruction tell a vivid story that is very humbling. The destroyed pottery and other artefacts convey an emotional connection that doesn’t come when you are excavating something more abstract like a garbage pit or a floor layer. It brings you into greater contact with the subject and helps you to better understand how people lived and acted, and what decisions they made. You start to think on a different level, not thinking about the people, but with the people who lived there.”

Sabine is excited to continue to participate in the coming season as the expedition continues to explore the history of the Late Bronze Age, and uncover the mystery of what happened before Azekah’s Late Bronze Age destruction.

Sabine’s experience in the field at Azekah connected and grounded her in the archaeological work, and helped her to overcome the theoretical abstraction that she described of experience outside of the field. As she related, “when you realise that you’re standing on the same hill that someone stood on 3000 or 4000 years ago, where they too shared the same majestic view, you have a realisation that you don’t get when you’re sitting in your office in Germany working on biblical text.”

If you would like to get outside of your normal life and uncover the history of the Bible with your own hands, join Sabine by registering for the July 21 – August 16, 2018 Season here:, @LautenschlagerAzekahExpedition,    

To discover more about Sabine’s research, or research she has been a part of, check out:

Kleiman, S., Koch, I., Webster, L. Berendt, K., Linares, V., Sergi, O., Oeming, M., Gadot, Y. and Lipschits, O. Late Bronze Age Azekah – An Almost Forgotten Story. In: Maeir, A. (ed.) Proceedings of the First Annual Ackerman Family Workshop in Biblical Archaeology Bar‐Ilan University. April 15th‐16th 2015. Tel Aviv (forthcoming: 2018)

Koch, I., Kleiman, S., Oeming, M., Gadot, Y., and Lipschits, O., 2017. Amulets in Context: A View from the Late Bronze Age Tel Azekah. JAEI, Vol. 16, 9-24.

Kleiman, S., Gadot, Y., and Lipschits, O., 2016. A Snapshot of the Destruction Layer of Tell Zakarīye /Azekah. Seen against the Backdrop of the Final Days of the Late Bronze Age. ZDPV. 132/2: 105-133

Webster, L. C., Sergi, O., Kleiman, S., Lipschits, O., Hua, Q., Jacobsen, G. E., Tristant, Y. and Gadot, Y., 2017. Preliminary Radiocarbon Results for Late Bronze Age Strata at Tel Azekah and their Implications. Radiocarbon, 2017: 1-23

Article Authored By: Brett Cohen

Edited By: Alexandra Wrathall


Final Day at Tel Azekah 2013
Final Day at Tel Azekah 2013



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