an exceptionally strong, perennial spring some 19 km (12 mi.) north-northeast of Jerusalem, at the northeastern foot of Ba῾al Hazor, one of the highest peaks in the Judean mountains (31°59′ N, 35°20′ E). The spring arises in a deep ravine surrounded by cliffs pockmarked with caves and grottoes. William Foxwell Albright, Amihai Mazar, and others have suggested plausibly that this lush area was a sanctuary in antiquity. The spring irrigates a system of small valleys that converge into the Wadi Auja, which cuts all the way down from the Judean hills, at 457 m (1,500 ft.), to the Jordan Valley. The spring still provides copious water for the town of Ramallah, from the modern pumping station at the site.

It is not surprising that there are a number of archaeological sites of many periods in the vicinity. (1) Khirbet Samiyeh lies 275 m (900 ft.) to the southeast, apparently a relatively late ruin, mostly Byzantine and Arab. (2) Khirbet el-Marjameh (“Ruin of the Heaps of Stones”) is a large, rocky ruin on a promontory just northeast of the spring, with sherds from the Early Bronze, Middle Bronze, and Late Bronze Ages, as well as major ruins from the Iron I–II periods. (3) The long, narrow Dhahr Mirzbaneh ridge, some 730 m (2,400 ft.) north-northeast of the spring, has a few remains from an EB IV settlement and a complex of much-robbed cemeteries that is known to have more than one thousand tombs.

The antiquities of ῾Ain es-Samiyeh have long been known to topographers and archaeologists, but the area's settlement history was only elucidated recently. David G. Lyon acquired Early Bronze IV pottery from robbed shaft tombs while director of the American School of Oriental Research In 1906–1907, and similar material found its way into many other collections from Jerusalem and elsewhere. Albright surveyed Khirbet el-Marjameh In 1923, identifying it with biblical Ephraim (2 Sm. 13:23). Paul W. Lapp excavated forty-five Early Bronze IV tombs on the Dhahr Mirzbaneh In 1963–1964, but he failed to locate any settlement. Bakizah Shantur and Yusuf Labidi dug another forty-four Early Bronze IV tombs In 1970; and William G. Dever published still more material from robbed tombs In 1972. Z. Kallai surveyed Khirbet el-Marjameh In 1968, opposing Albright's identification and suggesting an alternative identification with Baal Shalisha (1 Sm. 9:4; 2 Kgs. 4:42). Mazar cleared portions of the Iron Age town In 1975 and 1978. Finally, In 1987 Israel Finkelstein located many more Early Bronze IV tombs on the Dhahr Mirzbaneh, as well as a fairly extensive settlement from the same period.

The two best-known periods of occupation in the vicinity of ῾Ain es-Samiyeh are the Early Bronze IV and Iron I–II. During the Early Bronze IV (c. 2300–2000 BCE), the site attracted large numbers of migratory pastoralists, as well as transitory settlements. The Dhahr Mirzbaneh shaft-tomb cemetery, with several differing groups of tombs, is the largest such cemetery known in Palestine, with eleven hundred tombs in evidence and many more no doubt yet undiscovered. The pottery belongs to Dever's Central Hills type but has clear links with Jericho, the Jordan Valley, and the southern Hebron hills. One tomb produced a unique silver goblet of Syrian origin, with an embossed scene in the Ur III style. The settlement on the ridge at Dhahr Mirzbaneh, partly enclosed, covers some 4 acres and has remains of both crude dwellings and a possible cult area, possibly with two phases.

The Iron Age occupation, concentrated at Khirbet el-Marjameh, may extend from the tenth to the late eighth century BCE. The earliest phase of occupation at the 10-acre site may have been in the tenth century BCE, for there is material known from robbed tombs of that period in the vicinity. Somewhat later, in the ninth-eighth centuries BCE, a town grew up, with well-laid-out lanes and densely built-up courtyard houses of the “Israelite” type, surrounded by a stone wall 4 m wide with a massive tower, or citadel, at its northern end. The existence of a large fortified town during the Monarchy in such an isolated site may seem surprising, but it is explicable given the strategic importance of and attractive conditions for settlement at ῾Ain es-Samiyeh.


  • Albright, William F. “The Ephraim of the Old and New Testaments.” Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society 3 (1923): 36–40.
  • Dever, William G. “Middle Bronze Age I Cemeteries at Mirzbâneh and ῾Ain-Sâmiya.” Israel Exploration Journal 22.2–3 (1972): 95–112.
  • Dever, William G. “MB IIA Cemeteries at ῾Ain es-Sâmiyeh and Sinjil.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 217 (February 1975): 23–36.
  • Finkelstein, Israel. “The Central Hill Country in the Intermediate Bronze Age.” Israel Exploration Journal 41.1 (1991): 19–45.
  • Kallai, Zecharia. “Baal-Shalisha and Ephraim.” In HaMiḳra' we Toledot Yiśra'el: Essays in Memory of Ron Yishai, edited by Benjamin Uff-enheimer, pp. 60–71. Tel Aviv, 1972.
  • Lapp, Paul W. The Dhahr Mirzbâneh Tombs: Three Intermediate Bronze Age Cemeteries in Jordan. New Haven, 1966.
  • Mazar, Amihai. “Three Israelite Sites in the Hills of Judah and Ephraim.” Biblical Archaeologist 45.3 (1982): 167–178.
  • Shantur, Bakizah, and Yusuf Labadi. “Tomb 204 at ῾Ain Samiya.” Israel Exploration Journal 21.2–3 (1971): 73–77.

William G. Dever