The Search for Joshua's Ai: The Excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir 2011

Date: 5/21/2011-6/4/2011
Time: All Day
Location: Israel
File: abr_ai_dig.pdf

Registration for this year's dig is now closed. Please pray for our group and consider joining us in 2012!

Is the Bible in error about the city of Ai, recorded in Joshua 7-8?

The location of Joshua's Ai has been a matter of mystery and controversy since the beginnings of archaeological research in Palestine. Most archaeologists locate Joshua's Ai at et-Tell, .6 miles east of our site. At et-Tell, there is no indication of occupation at the time of Joshua (see map on slide show). This has led scholars to reject the historicity of the account of the capture of Ai, the Conquest in general, the Exodus by implication, and ultimately, the Gospel of God's Son.

Here is what some of the skeptics and liberals have said about the Biblical account in Joshua 7-8:

"Ai is simply an embarrassment to every view of the conquest that takes the biblical and archaeological evidence seriously."

"This evidence shows that the narrative in Joshua is not to be taken literally."

"Archaeology has wiped out the historical credibility of the conquest of Ai as reported in Joshua 7–8."

"There is no evidence of a... Canaanite city at this spot or at any other site in the region. This constitutes unequivocal archaeological evidence for the lack of correlation between the story in Joshua 8, with all its topographic details, and a historical reality corresponding to the period of the conquest."

"The narratives of the capture of Jericho and Ai... are devoid of historical reality."

"This lack of any Late Bronze Canaanite city... in the vicinity contradicts the narrative in Joshua 8 and shows that it was not based on historical reality."

"In short, the evidence shows that there was no city at Ai for the Israelites to conquer."

To answer and refute these criticisms and find the true site where these Biblical events took place would be very significant, having far-reaching implications for a correct understanding of the early history of Israel. It would also provide an excellent tool for the Christian apologist to defend the Biblical account against these erroneous and prejudicial attacks. This project is also certain to edify our Christian brethren who are struggling with doubts about the veracity and inerrancy of Scripture.

Excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir began in 1995. Thus far, the city gate and wall system have been revealed, large amounts of pottery from the time of Joshua, evidence for fire, and a Byzantine monastery. In 2010, we continued to excavate these and other features as we uncover the plan of this 15th century BC Canaanite fortress.

This research and excavation is being conducted under the direction of ABR Director of Research, Bryant G. Wood, Ph.D. University of Toronto. Topography, fortifications, and pottery finds all strongly suggest that Khirbet el-Maqatir is the Ai of Joshua 7-8.

This is an enormously important apologetic project that is critical in defending the historical reliability of the Bible in this age of rampant skepticism. The staff, board and volunteers af ABR would be very excited to have you join us in this extremely important and historically significant archaeological project.

Join us in Israel and become a part of Biblical history!


Travel Details and Deadlines: All Subject to Change without Notice

1. The full GROUND ONLY (Saturday May 21- Saturday June 4) price for this trip is $2,299 (own flight, double occupancy). Partial trips can be priced on an individual basis. Travelers are responsible for their own travel arrangements, including flight and transport to and from the airport. Deadline for signup April 29, 2011.

2. In 2011, ABR will not be arranging group flights. We have found that group rates are more expensive than individual tickets to Israel. In order to minimize costs for our volunteers, we have decided to allow travelers to make their own flight arrangements in order to find the best deals possible.

3. The Touring option has been canceled for this excavation season.

4. A $500 per person deposits is due IMMEDIATELY on a first come, first serve basis. We highly recommend sending in your deposit asap to reserve your space. As of April 15, spaces are still available.

a. Final payment in full is due NOON April 29, 2011.

b. Upon receipt of deposit, travelers will receive paperwork that requires immediate attention. 


Safety is of primary importance on this excavation. The Israeli Antiquities Authority and Israeli Defense Force have reviewed the situation locally, and determined that it is safe for ABR to dig at the site. Previous experience has shown that the locals are very friendly and helpful to ABR staff and volunteers. Security guards will be required and provided by ABR at the site, and the IDF monitors our activity. The excavation is very safe.


6. While digging, we will be staying at a Christian/Messianic Jewish moshav, Yad Hashmona, near Abu Ghosh. It is located about 8 miles west of the old city of Jerusalem in the Judean hills. The moshav was started by Finnish Christian immigrants, who were later joined by Messianic believers. It is in a secure area, isolated from the potential trouble spots, and yet close enough to Jerusalem for easy access to the many attractions there.

7. Yad Hashmonah has wireless internet access in some of the rooms, wireless access near the lobby, as well as a public computer in the lobby. There is a swimming pool available next door for Yad Hashmonah guests.

8. Single rooms are available for the dig portion of the trip at an added cost of $35 per night. 

Traveler's and Health Insurance

9. We strongly recommend the purchase of travelers insurance in the event of a family emergency, illness, etc. ABR CANNOT GUARANTEE THE RECOVERY OF ANY MONIES PAID FOR THE TRIP!

9. All Travelers MUST have Medical Insurance coverage for this trip. ABR cannot and will not be responsible in any way for any hospital or doctor visits or ambulance transport needed by travelers, whether the result of sickness or injury. MEDICARE IS NOT ACCEPTED OUTSIDE THE US!

10. We strongly recommend Medical Evacuation insurance as well, in case a traveler need to be transported to the US. Without insurance, this could cost more than $50K.


11. No visa is required if you have a passport from an APPROVED country and are staying less than 90 days. If you have other plans or have a non-US passport, please visit the Israeli Embassy website here:

12. Passport must have an expiration date that expires SIX MONTHS beyond your last intended day of stay in Israel. For purposes of the ABR trip, your passport must have an expiration date that postdates December 6, 2011.

Tax Deductibility

14. The monies paid toward the Maqatir excavation are not considered a donation to ABR. However, because you are providing volunteer work for ABR, all expenses related to that work may be deductible as expenses of volunteer work for a non-profit ministry. This does not include any touring. You will receive a receipt in the mail in the January following the dig. Please consult a tax professional for advice.

Making Your Payment

15. To pay your deposit online or make full payment, please follow these instructions with our secure donation page:

a. In the ONE TIME GIFT field, click on OTHER and enter the proper dollar amount.


c. Fill out the rest of the form. You will make your payment through PayPal. You do not need a PayPal account. You can use your CC through PayPal.

d. Payments by check are the preferred method of payment.

16. Paperwork


2011 Ai Expedition Paperwork.pdf

Overall Schedule

Wednesday May 18: ABR staff departs from the USA.

Saturday May 21: Check in date for travelers at Yad Hashmonah. Arrangements may be made for earlier check in at additional cost. Travelers are welcome to come earlier to help the ABR staff with dig preparations and/or to do their own touring.

Monday May 23- Friday May 27: Dig at Khirbet el-Maqatir.

Saturday May 28 - Sunday May 29: Rest, Free Days.

Monday May 30- Friday June 3: Dig at Khirbet el-Maqatir.

Saturday June 4: Free Day. Check out PM from Yad Hashmonah. ABR staff departs for airport.

Daily Dig Schedule

4:15 AM Breakfast
4:45 AM Load Bus
5:00 AM Depart for Site- bus ride includes a daily devotional and songs of praise.
6:00 AM Start Digging
10:30 AM Lunch on site
2 PM Leave Site
3 PM Pottery Washing
4:30-6PM Rest, Free Time
6PM Dinner
7-8 PM Evening Biblical Teaching

Biblical Teaching Schedule 7-8 pm (In the IBEX Classroom under room C5)

Sunday, May 22—Orientation and Recording System (Byers/Luddeni)
Monday, May 23—Pottery and Object Processing (Klauder/Souza)
Tuesday, May 24—The Archaeological Ages and Biblical History (Byers)
Wednesday, May 25—Before They Were Sherds: Pottery Making and Use in Bible Times (Byers)
Thursday, May 26—Pottery Typology and You (Byers)
Friday, May 27—Rise and Fall of the Thirteenth Century Conquest Theory (Byers)
Monday, May 30—The Date and Political Background of the Conquest (Byers)
Tuesday, May 31—Digging Up the Truth at Jericho (Byers)
Wednesday, June 1—In Search of the Lost City of Ai: Topography and Archaeology (Byers)
Thursday, June 2—Everyday Life in Bible Times: The Iron I Period (Byers)
Friday, June 3—Debriefing (Byers)

Contact: Send an email to if you would like to receive regular updates on The Search for Joshua's Ai or if you have questions about the dig, including requests for partial trips. We are willing to accomodate your situation so that you may join us!

See Dr. Wood present the evidence in this series of videos:

Reports from the 2010 Excavation Season:

View a Slide Show on the ABR FaceBook Fanpage from the 2010 Excavation and Tour

Reports from the 2009 Excavation Season:

ABR’s 2009 Excavation at Khirbet el-Maqatir: The Infant Jar Burial

The ABR Excavation at Khirbet el-Maqatir: Review of Past Work and Report on the 2009 Season

Update from Khirbet el-Maqatir Week Two

Update from Khirbet el-Maqatir Week One

ABR website articles bearing on the location and historicity of Joshua's Ai:

The Search for Joshua's Ai

Researching Ai

The Rise and Fall of the 13th Century Exodus-Conquest Theory

Further Considerations on the Location of Bethel at El-Bireh

Locating Biblical Bethel

Traditional Site of Bethel Questioned

Location of Biblical Bethel and Ai Reconsidered

Beth Aven: A Scholarly Conundrum

Israel's Origins

"The Cites are Great and Walled Up to Heaven"

From Ramesses to Shiloh: Archaeological Discoveries Bearing on the Exodus-Judges Period

Recent Research on the Date and Setting of the Exodus

The Biblical Date for the Exodus is 1446 BC: A Response to James Hoffmeier

Further Bibliographical Information:

Wood, Bryant G.

1999 The Search for Joshua's Ai: Excavations at Kh. el-Maqatir. Bible and Spade 12: 21–30.

1999 Kh. el-Maqatir 1999 Dig Report. Bible and Spade 12: 109–14.

2000 Kh. el-Maqatir 2000 Dig Report. Bible and Spade 13: 67–72.

2000 Khirbet el-Maqatir, 1995–1998. Israel Exploration Journal 50: 123–30.

2000 Khirbet el-Maqatir, 1999. Israel Exploration Journal 50: 249–54.

2001 Khirbet el-Maqatir, 2000. Israel Exploration Journal 51: 246–52.

2003 From Ramesses to Shiloh: Archaeological Discoveries Bearing on the Exodus–Judges Period.Giving the Sense: Understanding and Using Old Testament Historical Texts, David M. Howard, Jr., and Michael A. Grisanti, eds. Grand Rapids MI: Kregel.

2009 The Search for Joshua’s Ai. In: Critical Issues in the Early History of Israel, eds. Richard S. Hess, Gerald A. Klingbeil and Paul J. Ray, Jr. (Winona Lake IN: Eisenbrauns).

Briggs, Peter

2005 Testing the Factuality of the Conquest of Ai Narrative in the Book of Joshua. Pp. 157–96 in Beyond the Jordan: Studies in Honor of W. Harold Mare, ed. Glenn A. Carnagey, Sr. (Eugene OR: Wipf &Stock).

On the location of Bethel (best read in order of date):

Bimson, John J., and Livingston, David

1987 Redating the Exodus. Biblical Archaeological Review 13/5: 41-53, 66-68.

Livingston, David P.

1970 Location of Bethel and Ai Reconsidered.Westminster Theological Journal 33: 20-44.

1971 Traditional Site of Bethel Questioned.Westminster Theological Journal 34: 39-50.

1994Further Considerations on the Location of Bethel at el-Bireh.Palestine Exploration Quarterly 126: 154-59.

*Khirbet el-Maqatir is pronounced [Ker-Bit el-Muh-Kah-ter]
** ABR will in act in good faith as a Christian ministry in determining any possible refunds, but can make no guarantees in this regard.

Updated 5/6/2011

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