Connections with biblical events and figures were a major interest of early archaeologists active in the Middle East.
The Christian nations of Europe had long been interested in the Holy Land, and particularly in Jerusalem. Birs Nimrud in Iraq was thought to be the site of the Tower of Babel, destroyed by divine wrath. The Egyptians, Babylonians and Assyrians were known from the Bible as well as from classical sources. Interest in the archaeology of these lands was driven by their biblical relevance.
Learned societies dedicated to the study of the Holy Land were founded, such as the Palestine Exploration Fund in the UK in 1865, with the King as Patron and the Archbishop of Canterbury as President. The PEF carried out a detailed survey of an area of 6,000 square miles between 1871 and 1878. The first systematic excavation in Palestine was carried out by William Matthew Flinders Petrie at Tell el-Hesi, thought by him to be Lachish.