(1917–1984), Israeli

military leader,


and Dead Sea Scroll scholar. As an international figure and gifted public speaker, Yadin played a central role in creating the enormous popularity of and worldwide interest in the archaeology of Israel. He was also able to draw upon international sources of funding to undertake ambitious archaeological excavations and help establish such important archaeological institutions as the Shrine of the Book, which houses the seven complete scrolls from Qumran Cave 1 and the “Bar Kokhba Letters” at the Israel Museum, and the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Born in Jerusalem in 1917, the eldest of three sons of Eleazar L. Sukenik, one of Palestine's first Jewish archaeologists, Yadin (known during his youth as Yigael Sukenik) studied archaeology at the Hebrew University. Although he spent most of the 1930s and 1940s in active service in the Zionist underground, the Haganah (in which he was given the biblical codename “Yadin” (“he will judge,” from Gn. 49:16), which he later adopted as his surname), Yadin completed his master's degree in 1944 with a thesis on medieval Arabic inscriptions. He planned to write a doctoral dissertation on biblical weapons and warfare, but his full-time service in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war intervened. Named chief of operations of the Haganah (and, with the establishment of the State of Israel, of the Israel Defense Forces [IDF]), Yadin later served as IDF chief of staff (1949–1952).

Yadin resumed his archaeological career after retiring from military service and in 1955 completed his Ph.D. dissertation on the Qumran “Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness.” Almost immediately thereafter he joined the Hebrew University faculty and began excavations at Hazor, which continued until 1958. Yadin's directorship of the James A. de Rothschild Expedition to Hazor inaugurated a new era in Israeli archaeology. In uncovering vast expanses of Bronze and Iron Age Hazor, the expedition staff, guided by architect Immanuel Dunayevsky, developed a system of architectural stratigraphy that would long characterize the Israeli field approach. With regard to Hazor's biblical history, Yadin believed that the Late Bronze Age destruction levels provided conclusive evidence for a unified Israelite conquest of Canaan in about 1250 BCE. Later scholars would, however, question both the date and circumstances of that city's fall. [See Hazor; and the biography of Dunayevsky.]

Yadin's scholarly interests were wide ranging. In 1959 and 1960, he directed stratigraphic probes at Megiddo to test his hypothesis that the so-called Solomonic gates and later Israelite fortification systems were built according to uniform plans. He also devoted considerable attention to a study of the earthen ramparts of Middle Bronze Age Canaan, which he dated to the Middle Bronze IIB period (1850–1750 BCE) and attributed to the introduction of the battering ram by supposed Hyksos invaders. Yadin's great corpus of military artifacts and monuments, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands in the Light of Archaeology, was published in 1963.

In 1960, in response to reports of illegal digging in the caves in the Judean Wilderness, Yadin joined a large-scale expedition sponsored by the Israel Department of Antiquities, the Hebrew University, and the Israel Exploration Society. Yadin's sector included Naḥal Ḥever, where, in a large cave on the northern cliff face, he and his team uncovered a large collection of artifacts (including contemporary military dispatches and legal documents) left by refugees during the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132–135 CE). [See Judean Desert Caves; Bar Kokhba Revolt.]

Yadin's best-known excavation was at the mountain fortress of Masada (1963–1965). In addition to uncovering impressive Herodian palaces and administrative buildings, Yadin's team also retrieved written material, including hundreds of ostraca and several documents resembling those found at Qumran. Yadin gained great scholarly and popular attention with his assertion that the excavated human remains were those of Masada's last Jewish defenders, who, according to Josephus Flavius, had committed suicide in 74 CE rather than fall into Roman captivity. [See Masada.]

In the midst of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Yadin, then serving as security adviser to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, obtained IDF assistance in confiscating and ultimately purchasing an important ancient scroll, discovered by bedouin in the Qumran region some years before, that had come into the hands of a Bethlehem antiquities dealer. Yadin's careful transcription of and exhaustive commentary on this document, which he named the Temple Scroll, focused the attention of scholars on the Qumran sect's religious law, or halakhah.

Yadin entered public life after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, serving first as a member of the Agranat Commission investigating Israel's military preparedness for that war and later as the head of a new parliamentary list called the Democratic Movement for Change (DASH, its Hebrew acronym). After serving as deputy prime minister in the government of Menachem Begin (1977–1981), Yadin returned to academic life. His last archaeological projects were a brief excavation at Tel Beth-Shean and plans to resume excavation at Hazor. With his death in 1984, traditional biblical archaeology, already under intellectual attack, lost one of its most eloquent spokesmen and influential practioners.

[See also Biblical Archaeology; Dead Sea Scrolls; and the biography of Sukenik.]


  • Dever, William G. “Yigael Yadin: Prototypical Biblical Archaeologist.” Eretz-Israel 20 (1989): 44–51.
  • Silberman, Neil Asher. A Prophet from Amongst You: The Life of Yigael Yadin—Soldier, Scholar, and Mythmaker of Modern Israel. New York, 1993.
  • Yadin, Yigael. “Hyksos Fortifications and the Battering Ram.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 137 (1955): 23–32.
  • Yadin, Yigael. The Message of the Scrolls. London, 1957.
  • Yadin, Yigael. “Solomon's City Wall and Gate at Gezer.” Israel Exploration Journal 8 (1958): 80–86.
  • Yadin, Yigael. The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands in the Light of Archaeological Discovery. New York, 1963.
  • Yadin, Yigael. Masada: Herod's Fortress and the Zealots' Last Stand. New York, 1966.
  • Yadin, Yigael. Bar-Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Last Jewish Revolt against Imperial Rome. London, 1971.
  • Yadin, Yigael. Hazor: With a Chapter on Israelite Megiddo. London, 1972.
  • Yadin, Yigael. “The Transition from Semi-Nomadic to a Sedentary Society in the Twelfth Century B.C.E.” In Symposia Celebrating the Seventy- Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 1900–1975, edited by Frank Moore Cross, pp. 57–68. Cambridge, Mass., 1979.
  • Yadin, Yigael, ed. The Temple Scroll. 3 vols. in 4. Jerusalem, 1983.

Neil Asher Silberman