.:. Khirbet Qana, A Galilean Village in Regional Perspective:

Survey and Excavation, 1997 - 2004


Introduction                                      Douglas Edwards, University of Puget Sound

 compiled and edited with new material by Chris Mundigler

Khirbet Qana and its relevance

The University of Puget Sound Excavations at Khirbet Cana began its first field season on July 21, 1998.  This followed a survey conducted in 1997 and was the first of a planned five season campaign. 

The location of Khirbet Cana - in red on the linked British Palestine Survey map of 1944, as opposed to nearby Kefar Cana, in blue (press your browser "back" button to return here) and related areas of study fall within the following coordinates (following the Old Israel grid): 1788-2477; 1786-2475; 1786-2475; 1788-2477).

The license numbers granted to Douglas Edwards and The University of Puget Sound by the Israel Antiquities Authority were:  G-55/1998, G-48/1999 and G-76/2000 for the 1998 to 2000 field seasons.

The site of Khirbet Qana (as shown on the linked Google Earth mapping which will open in a new window; exit Google Earth to return here) was selected for its central location in the lower Galilee, the fact that it had never been excavated, the large amount of architectural and other human structures on the surface, the extensive range of pottery (from the Iron age through the Mamluk period), its location as a village or town on the periphery of empires, and literary traditions that indicated it may have functioned as a Christian pilgrimage site. 

This volume reports on the 1997 to 2004 field seasons sponsored by the University of Puget Sound and excavated by students, volunteers, and staff from the University of Puget Sound, University of Arizona, Princeton University, Pacific Lutheran University, the University of Toronto and Trinity College in Dublin, among others. 

The Project Director was Douglas Edwards of the University of Puget Sound.


Khirbet Qana:  An Overview

"Urbanocentric" biases have often governed the study of ancient societies, notably for historical periods.[1]

But size and complexity often make urban centers poor archaeological indicators of the character of society as a whole.  Towns and villages of small size and occupation offer more controlled ways to discern the nature and degree of integration with the larger political economy; the ways in which social forms of ranking and segmentation pervaded the day to day life of all members of society; and the extent to which small settlements connected to larger regional and international commercial and cultural spheres. 

Recent work in Turkey,[2] Syria,[3] Jordan,[4] and Israel[5] have highlighted the value of careful study of village and town settings.  Unfortunately most surveys and excavations on rural areas done in the Near East focus on the Iron Age and earlier. Few studies comparable to those above delineate the character of towns or villages in the countryside in historical periods, especially during the Hellenistic through the medieval period (although see the important work on the Greek countryside,[6] and on Byzantine villages in upper Syria[7]). 

Indeed, we know more about the flora and faunal environment of the Late Neolithic or the Late Bronze Age than the Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods combined, creating a "gaping lacuna" in diachronic studies of those periods.[8] 

Excavations and an extensive site survey of Khirbet Cana, a medium sized site roughly 800 meters by 300 meters, began in 1997 to address these issues as they relate to lower Galilee.

Khirbet Cana, a virtually untouched village, is situated in the center of the lower Galilee along an important east-west corridor, the Bet Netofa Valley.  Its close proximity to significant urban centers and numerous villages make it an ideal site to gauge the interaction between urban areas and the countryside. 

The site is 7 km from Sepphoris, one of the most important urban centers in the region from the Hellenistic through the Crusader period; 15 km from Tiberias, an urban center on the Sea of Galilee; 30-50 km from the major port cities of Acco/Ptolemais and Caesarea and 15-40 km from a number of partially excavated villages to the north notably Meiron, Gush Halav, Nabratein and Kefar Hananya.[9]  

In 1997-2000, surface surveys and excavation at Khirbet Cana found pottery or material evidence from the Neolithic through the Mameluke periods. The wealth of remains, the site’s central location, and its relative pristine state led to a subsequent five-year excavation plan.


[1] Schwartz/Falconer 1994:1; Eickelmann 1989, The Middle East: An Anthropological Approach.  Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs, N.J.; Hayden 1994, Village Approaches to Complex Societies.  In Schwartz/Falconner, 1994b: 198-206; Woolf 1998.

[2] Wattenmaker 1994, State Formation and the Organization of Domestic Craft Production at Third-Millennium B.C. Kurban Hoyuk, Southeast Turkey.  In Schwartz/Falconer, 1994b: 109-120; 1987, Town and Village Exoomies in an Early State Society.  In Paleorient 13: 113-122.

[3] Marfoe 1979; The Integrative Transformation: Patterns of Sociopolitical Organization in Southern Syria.  In BASOR 234: 1-42; Schwartz 1994, Rural Economic Specilization and Early Urbanization in the Khaba Vallye, Syria.  In Schwartz/Falconer, 1994b: 19-36, Archaeological Views from the Countryside: Village Communities in Early Complex Societies.  Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press.

[4] Jordan Valley River Project (Falconer 1994), Village Economy and Society in the Jordan Valley: A Study of Bronze Age Rural Complexity.  In Archaeological Views from the Countryside: Village Communities in Early Complex Societies, Glenn M. Schwartz and Steven E. Falconer (eds.). Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. 121-142.

[5] Dessel, et. al 1994, Tell el-Wawiyat. In The Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, second edition, volume 4.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 1500-1501; Gal 1992, Lower Galilee During the Iron Age, trans. M. R. Josephy. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns.; Finkelstein 1995, Living on the Fringe: The Archaeology and History of the Negev, Sinai and Neighboring Regions in the Bronze and Iron Ages.  Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

[6] Bintliff 1997, Regional Survey, Demography, and the Rise of Complex Societies in the Ancient Aegean: Core-Periphery, Neo-Malthusian, and Other Interpretive Models. Journal of Field Archaeology 24.1: 1-38.; Jameson, Runnels, Andel 1994, A Greek Countryside: The Southern Argolid from Prehistory to the Present Day. Stanford: Stanford University Press; Kardulias 1994, Beyond the Site: Regional Studies in the Aegean Area.  London: University Press of America; Kardulias, Shutes 1997, Aegean Strategies: Studies of Culture and Environment on the European Fringe.  New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.; Alcock 1993, Graecia Capta: The Landscapes of Roman Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

[7] Sodini 1980, Dehes (Syrie du nord), Campagnes I-III (1976-78): recherches sur l'habitat rural. Syria 57: 1-304.; Tate 1992, Les Campagnes de la Syrie du Nord I (Institut francais d'archeologie du proche-orient, Bibliotheque archeologique et historique, vol. 133.  Paris: Geuthner; and the work of Safrai 1994, The Economy of Roman Palestine.  London: Routledge, for the Roman and Ellenblum 1992, 1998 for the Frankish periods in Israel.

[8] Strasser 1997:130, Archaeological Views from the Countryside: Village Communities in Early Complex Societies.  Journal of Field Archaeology 24.1: 130-134.

[9] Meyers, et. al. 1981, Excavations at Ancient Meiron, Upper Galilee, Israel 1971-2, 1974-75, 1977 Cambridge;  Adan-Bayewitz 1993, Common Pottery in Roman Galilee: A Study of Local Trade. Bar-Ilan Studies Near Eastern Languages and Culture.  Bar-Ilan: Bar-Ilan Press.