What happens to West Bank archaeological sites under Trump’s plan?

Here are some of the archaeological sites located in the West Bank.

Aerial view of the excavations at Shiloh. (photo credit: COURTESY ASSOCIATES FOR BIBLICAL RESEARCH)
Aerial view of the excavations at Shiloh.
Perhaps not surprisingly, considering in this region it is often enough to carry any form of excavation to uncover traces of its past, but it is difficult to determine how many archaeological sites exist in the West Bank.
Estimations place the number at several thousands, 3,000 of which sit in Area C and are therefore under full Israeli control. They include some of the most crucial biblical sites in the land: sites connected to Jewish, Christian and Muslim history, as well as sites that bear testimony to the different populations who have lived in the region, such as the Romans.
According to the status quo, in Area C, management, preservation and access to these sites, both for researchers and the public, are entrusted with the archaeology unit of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which also coordinates with the Palestinian Authority to allow limited access to specific sites located outside Area C. In the rest of the West Bank, the PA is the entity in charge, even though it has often been accused of neglecting its responsibilities that were assigned to it by the Oslo Accords.
If the current situation regarding the issue is complicated and characterized by a general lack of comprehensive information, what would happen in the case of a change in the status quo appears even more uncertain. In recent months, after the release of the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, the possibility of a change has become more imminent, especially with the Israeli government discussing plans to annex parts of the West Bank on the basis on the plan, starting as early as July 1.
Both for Trump’s plan and for the annexation plans, maps or exact details about the areas involved have not been released yet. If things were to move forward, though, the general understanding is that Israel would annex most of what is currently Area C, while the rest of the West Bank would eventually become part of a future Palestinian state. Any of these developments will affect archaeological sites, which could be permanently transferred under Israeli or Palestinian sovereignty.
Here are some of the sites located in the West Bank:
The Qumran Caves are located in the northern Dead Sea shore. They are world renown as the site which was home to the Dead Sea Scrolls, a corpus of hundreds of scrolls that include some of the oldest surviving manuscripts of the Bible. The settlement where the community that redacted the scrolls lived has been designated as a national park. It is in Area C and part of the Jordan Valley, which under Trump’s plan would allow for Israel to annex.
According to the Bible, for hundreds of years Shiloh was the primary location of the holy Tabernacle – which included the Ark of the Covenant, the tablets and the menorah – before the Temple was built in Jerusalem by Solomon. The archaeological site is located in Area C, in an area that would be annexed to Israel.
Shomron (Sebastia)
The city of Shomron, Sebastia, was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Israel. The site also presents impressive remains from the Roman era. It is located about 10 km. (6.2 miles) from the Palestinian city of Nablus. While the archaeological site is in Area C, it is not clear whether it would be part of the territories that the government is planning to annex or part of the land to remain under the Palestinian Authority.
Herodium, the site where the Roman client king of Judea, Herod, built his palace and fortress. It is designated as an Israeli national park, and located in Area C, in an area that would be annexed to Israel.
Hasmonean Palaces
There are several remains of palaces dating back to the rulers of the Hasmonean dynasty during the Second Temple period. One of them located in Area B has suffered extensive damage from neglect and robbery. The site has not been excavated yet. According to a report by the Hebrew paper Yediot Aharonot, it can be visited in coordination with COGAT’s archaeology unit. The paper recently reported that, according to what is currently understood about the Trump and annexation plans, this structure and other Hasmonean remains located in Area C would not be part of the territory annexed to Israel.
Tel Hebron
Tel Hebron, located south of Hebron, is officially designated as a national park. The mound features remains from the Cana’anite, Israelite, early Roman, late Roman and Byzantine periods. It is not clear whether it would be annexed to Israel or not.
The archaeological site of Susya is located in the South Hebron Hills. It features the remains of a Jewish city from the late Roman period. It is accessible to the Israeli public. It is located in Area C, in an area which seems set to be annexed by Israel.