The Buried History of the Palestinian Exodus

On the 14th of May 1948, hostilities first erupted between the newly formed state of Israel and its Arab League neighbors of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. In the seventy years since historians have documented the Palestinian War in its near entirety. However, one aspect remains strangely unstudied: the condition of the exiled Palestinian refugees. Why have they been completely ignored? Perhaps archaeology can unveil the past of a people banished from their home.

Location of Al-Bassa, now an Israeli town. 33° 04′ 34″ N 35° 08′ 27″ E.

Our journey begins in abandoned Palestinian settlement of Al-Bassa, where in May of 1948 Israeli forces told its inhabitants to leave, according to Israeli documents. Surprisingly, no evidence of the settlement exists as an Israeli town was built directly on top of it. Modern streets and buildings now conceal any artifacts. Archaeology would be possible, but extremely difficult to perform. Neitherless, there must be other sites to study. Al-Kabri, another abandoned settlement, meets a similar fate of annihilation. Where the village should be is only farmland. The history of a people is completely hidden below the earth, away from the public eye.

Seventy years ago, this was the location of Al-Kabri, a Palestinian settlement. 33° 00′ 56″ N 35° 09′ 03″ E.

These instances of hidden villages are not isolated, but instead mark the greater trend. Satellite imagery reveals the majority of recorded settlements are completely obscured. Unless told of their existence, the average person would never suspect they walk on the homes of the Palestinians.

But what is the purpose of this concealment? Despite official records claiming the peaceful removal of Palestinians from their land, reality offers a darker perspective. Israeli-Palestinian animosity was widespread before and after the war. For example, at Deir Yassin, a massacre claimed 107 Palestinians while the Israeli attackers were only given a warning not to repeat their actions. However, many other cases of racist violence against the Palestinians were not reported and thus remain hidden. Furthermore, the only accurate method to learn of the extent of this violence would archaeology. Yet, as seen above, the potential sites for this examination have all been destroyed in one way or another, making a study of racist violence against ethnic Palestinians near impossible.

In such a way Israel could have erased the evidence of Palestinian suffering under their hands. Deir Yassin probably was not the only major massacre during the conflict and smaller attacks could have also happened. Therefore, despite the great difficulty in doing so, excavations of the abandoned settlements are necessary to uncover what lies in the archaeological record. Depending on what items were left behind, archaeologists can gauge the conditions of the departure. If most everyday objects were taken, it probably was a planned and relatively peaceful withdrawal. However, if the refugees only brought the necessities, it most likely was an urgent escape from Israeli forces. Whether it was a peaceful immigration or the result of an institutional system of terror as the result of mass violence, the history of the Palestinian exodus lies buried.


Asaf Romirowsky and Alexander H. Joffe, Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). 

Morris, Benny. 1948 and After: Israel and the Palestinians. 1st ed., (Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.)

Image Sources:

Both images are original work of the author.

Further Reading:

Morris, Benny. The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949. Cambridge University, 1997.

Pappé, Ilan. A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples. Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Bronze Age Interactions: The Tin Trade


The Bronze age began 3300 BCE in the eastern Mediterranean and lasted until 1200 BCE when efficient iron smelting brought forth the dawn of the Iron Age. During this period copper and tin were smelted together to create bronze, an alloy stronger than its components and easier to create than refining iron. However, there is an unresolved question. Tin is not native in large quantities to eastern Mediterranean. Therefore, where was the tin mined?

An ancient tin ingot to be used in the creation of bronze.

With the advent of trace-element analysis, in which artifacts are sampled for specific rare elements, archaeologists are able to cross-reference the trace elements found in artifacts with naturally occurring concentrations across the world. For example, at shipwreck near Haifa, present-day Israel,  numerous tin ingots, with Minoan symbols indicating ingots are from the bronze age, had trace elements of cobalt. Archaeologists must now find a source of tin with similar traces of Cobalt to determine the origin. Yet, they have failed to find an exact match, the closest being Cornwall, present-day England, which has concentrations of cobalt and germanium.

In addition to trace-element analysis, written sources can help narrow the tin’s possible origin. The famed Greek historian Herodotus speaks of tin originating in “the tin isles” which is thought to be the English Isles. This tin would be exported to Minoan Crete for processing into bronze. Although his claim does strengthen the possibility of a source of tin in northern Europe, Herodotus wrote his theory of the origin of tin almost a five hundred years since its primary use and admitted that he lacked an eyewitness account. Only until the Roman empire conquered the Isles did both written sources and trace-element analysis provide concrete evidence that northern tin was used in bronze production.

Ultimately, a spatial distribution of assemblages containing tin would provide the most concrete answer. Both tin and amber are commonly found in north-western Europe, but very rare in Mediterranean. Excavations in Minoan Crete and Cyprus

A map showing major tin deposits in Europe.

found jewelry made of tin and amber beads revealing a trade network between the two locations. A fall-off analysis, an analysis which shows how the quantities of traded goods decline as distance to the source increases, indicates that a down-the-line exchange system carried the tin south through present day France before Minoan merchants brought the tin across the Mediterranean to Crete. Therefore, it is probable that a route did from northern Europe did supply at least the Minoans with a source of tin.



Maddin, Robert, Stech Wheeler, Tamara, Muhly, James. “Tin in the Ancient Near East Old Questions and New Finds.” Penn Museum, Vol. 15, no. 2, 1977. 35-47. Web. 29 September, 2017.

Harms, William. “Bronze Age Source of Tin Discovered.” The University of Chicago Chronicle, vol. 13, no. 9, 1994. Web. 29 September, 2017.

Muhly, James. “Tin Trade Routes of the Bronze Age.” Sigma Xi, vol. 61, no. 4, 1973, 404-413. Web. 29 September, 2017.

Renfrew, Colin, and Paul Bahn. Archaeology Essentials: Theories, Methods, Practice. 3rd ed., Thames & Hudson, 2015.

Further Readings:

Monna, Fabrice & Jebrane, Ahmed & Gabillot, M & Laffont, Rémi & Specht, Marie & Bohard, Benjamin & Camizuli, Estelle & Petit, Christophe & Chateau, Carmela & Paul, Alibert. (2013). Morphometry of Middle Bronze Age palstaves. Part II – spatial distribution of shapes in two typological groups, implications for production and exportation. Journal of Archaeological Science. 40. 507-516. 10.1016/j.jas.2012.06.029.

Bernard Knapp. “Thalassocracies in Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean Trade: Making and Breaking a Myth.” World Archaeology, vol. 24, no. 3, 1993, pp. 332–347. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Image Citations

M. Otte (2007) Vers la Préhistoire, de Boeck, Bruxelles. M. Benvenuti et al. (2003), “The “Etruscan tin”: a preliminary contribution from researches at Monte Valerio and Baratti-Populonia (Southern Tuscany, Italy)”, in A. Giumlia-Mair et al, The Problem of Early Tin, Oxford: Archaeopress. R.G. Valera & P.G. Valera, P.G. (2003), “Tin in the Mediterranean area: history and geology”, in A. Giumlia-Mair & F. Lo Schiavo, The Problem of Early Tin, Oxford: Archaeopress.

Gikeson, Mark. “Copper and Mudd.” Summer 2015, Harvey Mudd College Magazine, 9 Nov. 2015,