No post-graduate program is provided in Near Eastern archaeology in the country, and the courses provided by different disciplines do not form a coherent curriculum. Insufficient library collections also make study and research difficult, and often require traveling to better libraries.Along with academics and students there are individuals who through their general interest in the Bible also have an interest in archaeology, which is twofold.Since 2003, the Faculty of Theology at the University of Helsinki has been a member of the Kinneret Regional Project[viii] along with the universities of Bern, Leiden and Mainz. At the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Theology, questions concerning archaeology are part of all courses covering the history of the biblical periods.The project continued the excavations at Tel Kinrot during the periods of 2003–20–2008 under the direction of Dr. Special courses in archaeology are given yearly by Dr.The first person in Finland to become involved in Near Eastern archaeology was Aapeli Saarisalo (1896–1986), professor of Oriental Languages at the University of Helsinki.In fact, he was the first foreign scholar to resume work in the new state of Israel, when he appeared at the office of the Israel Antiquities Unit in March 1949, asking permission to continue his Galilee survey from the 1920s.Saarisalo was a devout conservative Christian and his orientation to archaeology was a traditional form of biblical archaeology, but as a prolific writer he made the field well-known to the wider public in Finland.Saarisalo describes in his memoir that when he travelled for the first time to Palestine in 1920 he was advised by his former professor Arthur Hjelt to visit Qumran, since Hjelt had assumed that there must be important inscriptions in the caves near the remains of an ancient monastery.
He also published tens of books aimed at the public about biblical history and his own excavation experiences as well as countless newspaper articles.
The approach to archaeology is deeply rooted in the natural sciences and their faculties that, for their part, provide Finland’s archaeologists with good technical facilities, special equipment and knowledge.
These departments of archaeology have been involved in many international projects over the years.
Those in the Near East have included the 1997–2007 survey and excavation project at Jabal Haroun (Petra)[iv], in Jordan, conducted by the University of Helsinki’s departments of Classics and Archaeology directed by Prof. The 2000–2010 GIS survey and mapping project (SYGIS) in the Jebel Bishri region[v] of Syria was directed by Dr.
Minna Lönnqvist from the same university’s Department of Archaeology.