valley sloping down, sometimes precipitously, from the central ridge of Palestine, northeast of Bethel, all the way to the Jordan Valley, north of Jericho (32°00′ N, 35°25′ E). Its steep, clifflike walls are honeycombed in places with caves, one complex of which was discovered In 1962 by the Ta῾amireh bedouin, who had been the first, In 1948, to locate what became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The cave that took the name Wadi ed-Daliyeh was excavated on behalf of the American Schools of Oriental Research In 1963–1964 by Paul W. Lapp, after a cache of Aramaic papyrus documents, now known as the Samaria papyri, appeared on the illegal antiquities market. The source of the papyri had proved to be one of the caves in the complex, the Muhgaret Abu Shinjeh, later called Cave I. Another cave, ῾Araq en-Na῾asaneh, or Cave II, was also excavated.

Cave I produced material that was largely from the Persian period, thus yielding an appropriate date for the papyri in the late fourth century BCE. This included typical Persian–Early Hellenistic horizon pottery, to which must be added the papyri; some 128 clay sealings from the papyri; coins purchased with the papyri from the cave robbers (plus one that was excavated), all of the same period; a scarab; numerous well-preserved textile fragments; pieces of leather sandals and other leather fragments; samples of basketry and wooden implements; glass; and beads and jewelry. The skeletal remains of many individuals were found, all of which had been disturbed by the robbers, who reported finding as many as three hundred skeletons, most of them badly burned.

It appears from the finds that Cave I had been used as a dwelling and no doubt as a hiding place, in this case by Samaritans fleeing the wrath of Alexander and the Macedonians after a revolt in the late fourth century BCE in which the prefect of Syria, Andromachus, had been burned alive. It is likely that Alexander's forces found the Samaritan refugees in the caves in the Wadi ed-Daliyeh and slaughtered them there.

The papyri, which have been extensively treated by Frank M. Cross, support this reconstruction. One mentions “[Yesha]yahû, son of Sanballat, governor of Samaria.” Another was “written in Samaria.” Other documents bear exact date formulae, reckoned from known Persian administrators in the province of Samaria. The range of these dates is about 375–335 BCE. Many of the papyri are legal or administrative documents, such as refugees would be inclined to take with them. Not only do the personal names, many of them Yahwistic, reveal a great deal about the half-Jewish Samaritan community, they also tell us a good deal about the complex religious and political situation that the returning Jewish exiles met in Palestine in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. This series of several dozen, closely dated historical documents provides valuable fixed dates for the study of Aramaic and Paleo-Hebrew paleography for the period just preceding the earliest of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Finally, the papyri have increased our knowledge of the Samaritan community, enhanced our understanding of the history of the Samaritan Pentateuch, and contributed to textual studies of the Hebrew Bible and its transmission.

Cave II produced some one hundred pieces of late Early Bronze Age IV pottery (c. 2100–2000 BCE) that has been published by William G. Dever. The corpus belongs to his Family CH (for Central Hills), with some overlap with Family J (for Jericho/Jordan Valley). The group is important partly because it is mostly not from burials but constitutes an assemblage of domestic types, rare in this region of Palestine. It is also evidence for the widely held theory that many EB IV folk were nomadic pastoralists who lived part of the year in caves and other temporary shelters. Also from Cave II was a small collection of Late Roman pottery and objects, indicating a final occupation, probably by refugees during the Second (or Bar-Kokhba) Jewish Revolt In 135 CE.

[See also Samaritans.]


  • Cross, Frank Moore. “Papyri of the Fourth Century BC from Dâliyeh.” In New Directions in Biblical Archaeology, edited by David Noel Freedman and Jonas C. Greenfield, pp. 45–69. Garden City, N.Y., 1969.
  • Lapp, Paul W., and Nancy L. Lapp, eds. Discoveries in the Wâdī ed-Dâliyeh. Cambridge, Mass., 1974.

William G. Dever