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TimeLine Auctions: Yigael Yadin (1917-1981)


The excavation of Masada, 1963: Soldier and Professor Yigael Yadin unearthed the mythical palace fortress of Herod the Great, the last bastion of Jewish resistance against the Romans in the closing stages of the First Jewish War. An individual of formidable passion and energy, Yadin’s archaeological ambitions did not stand in the way of his political ones: he founded the Democratic Movement for Change, a political party aimed to combat the alleged corruption of the Labour Party, and later served as Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister until 1981.

Yadin’s military career commenced in the Zionist paramilitary organisation in the Haganah, the heart of the Israeli military from 1948. Yadin, also known by his original family name of Sukenik, became chief of staff of the Israeli armed forces. Having served his country in war, Yadin’s enthusiasm for military life included military history, an interest he continued when he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps as an archaeologist.

Enthralled by the myths of Israel’s historical exploits, a land always devastated by war but rich in treasures and faith, Yadin went in search of the battle sites recorded in the Bible and of evidence of the great kings of his country. His efforts unearthed the remains of Lachish, sacked by the Assyrians in 701 BC, of Tel Megiddo, Hazor, and the fortifications of Solomon at Gezer.

Most poignantly, Yadin’s renown as an archaeologist was secured by the excavation of sites and artefacts linked to the two Jewish revolts against Rome. He was involved in the systematic exploration of Masada, the investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls and of the Cave of Letters, a site which produced hundreds of artefacts including clothes and papyri, treasures which retold the events of the end of the Second Jewish War through the eyes of a woman named Babata.

As Professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Yadin wrote hundreds of books and articles of academic and cultural importance for Israel and ‘The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands’ remains a cornerstone of military literature to this day. His works, passion and energy earned him the Israel Prize in Jewish Studies (1956) and the Rothschild Prize in Humanities (1965).


Dr. Raffaele D’Amato
Head of Antiquities
at TimeLine Auctions)