The Survey of Western Palestine, a monumental undertaking of the Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund carried out by a team of royal engineers from 1871-1878, presented orientalists and biblical scholars with an extremely detailed and accurate topographical map of what now comprises southern Lebanon, Israel and the West Bank. The survey did not include Transjordan nor the Negev south of the Beer Sheba basin. C. Leonard Woolley and T. E. Lawrence surveyed the Wilderness of Zin (the modern Negev) in 1913-1914 (Woolley and Lawrence 1915). An attempt to survey the region east of the Jordan River began but was sadly aborted (e.g., Condor 1889; Cobbing 2005). After the PEF published the map in 26 sheets (Condor and Kitchener 1880) as well as a monumental, multivolume text (Condor and Kitchener 1881-1887), demand was voiced for an actual three dimensional model of a relief map of the Holy Land clearly showing the detailed and varied terrain. The PEF answered these requests by appointing survey member George Armstrong to create a detailed model of the Holy Land. Armstrong labored for seven years, producing a 3/8 inch to a mile scale model, cast in plaster and covering the same area (the Litani River in Lebanon to the Beer Sheba basin) as the PEF maps.
Relevance to the Biblical Account
While this century old superbly crafted plaster model of the Holy Land is an antiquity in its own right, the ability to put the Bible on a map is a priceless tool for biblical students. As stated by the PEF (Notes and News 1894: 163):
“With this map before him the teacher or the student is enabled to follow the Bible narrative exactly; he can trace the route of armies; he can reconstruct the roads; he can understand the growth and the decay of cities, their safety or their dangers, from their geographical positions. It is a magnificent addition to the many works which this Society has given to the world. It illustrates the practical usefulness of the Society, while it adds one more to its achievements in the cause of illustration and explanation of the Bible Lands.”
The immense and exacting work required to prepare this model involved Armstrong cutting and overlaying several thousand pieces of cardboard to accurately represent the characteristically complex topography of the Holy Land. Completed in individual sections, Armstrong made a plaster cast copy of each, which he carefully colored and labeled to highlight all the geographical features. Even manmade features are noted where appropriate. For instance, one can follow the route of the Jaffa-Jerusalem railroad as it winds its way up the Sorek and Rephaim valleys. The entire plaster model, finally completed in 1894, measured 7 feet 6 inches in length by 4 feet in width, encased in wood. Announced the same year, the PEF offered commissioned replicas to museums and institutions and first advertised them in the Notes and News section of the Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement (Notes and News 1894: 162-164). The PEF sold over 115 copies of their models by 1915. The list price for society members was £7 7s for a partly colored model and £10 10s for a fully colored and framed version. Prices for the public (non-PEF members) were £10 10s and £13 13s respectively. Each copy had the following text printed on the map:
Raised Map of Palestine, Constructed from the Surveys of Palestine Exploration Fund and Other Sources, by George Armstrong (of the Survey Party) Acting Secretary of the Fund, Published by the Palestine Exploration Fund 38 Conduite St. London W. 1894.
A smaller, portable model measuring 3 feet 6 inches in length by 2 feet 6 inches in width was also created and offered for sale in 1902. Some 60 copies sold by 1915, primarily for teacher and student use (Watson 1915: 88-90; Rubin 2006: 58-60). Additional notices promoting the model and slides taken of it appeared in subsequent volumes of the Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement (e.g., Notes and News 1896: 6; 1897: 6; 1898: 3).
As announced in the Siegfried H. Horn Archaeological Museum Newsletter (Vol. 1, Number 2, Fall 1979), the Horn Museum acquired their PEF Relief Map as a donation from the Hartford Theological Seminary Foundation in 1979.
Cobbing, Felicity J.
2005 The American Palestine Exploration Society and the Survey of Eastern Palestine. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 137: 9-21.
Condor, Claude R.
1889 The Survey of Eastern Palestine. Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, Archaeology, Etc, Vol. 1—The ‘Adwân Country. London: The Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
Condor, Claude R., and Kitchener, Horatio H.
1880 Survey of Western Palestine, Map of Western Palestine in 26 Sheets from Surveys Conducted for The Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund during the Years 1872-1877, Scale: 1:63,360. London: The Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
1881- The Survey of Western Palestine. Memoirs of the Topography, Orography,
1883 Hydrography, and Archaeology. 3 volumes. London: The Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
Palestine Exploration Fund
1894 Notes and News. Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement 26: 153-168.
1896 Notes and News. Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement 28: 1-8.
1897 Notes and News. Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement 29: 1-10.
1898 Notes and News. Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement 30: 1-6.
2006 Relief Maps and Models in the Archives of the Palestine Exploration Fund in London. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 138: 43-63.
Watson, C. M.
1915 Palestine Exploration Fund, Fifty Years’ Work in the Holy Land: A Record and Summary 1865-1915. London: The Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
Woolley, C. L., and Lawrence, T. E.
1915 The Wilderness of Zin (Archaeological Report). Palestine Exploration Fund Annual 3 (1914-1915). Reissued, expanded edition with introductory material, 2003. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.
Jeffrey P. Hudon