Hailed as the “father of biblical geography,” Edward Robinson, a professor of biblical literature at Union Theological Seminary in New York, traveled through Palestine in 1838 with Eli Smith, a former student.

Armed with little more than a compass, a telescope and Hebrew-English Bible, Robinson and Smith completed the first systematic survey of biblical geography. Published in 1841, Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai and Arabia Petraea (title page, below) became the foundation of modern biblical archaeology.

Smith’s knowledge of Arabic enabled the two scholars to identify many biblical sites by matching Arabic place-names with their ancient Hebrew names. In this way, Robinson and Smith succeeded in locating such biblical sites as Anathoth (Arabic: Anath), Bethel (Arabic: Beitin) and Ramah (Arabic: er-Ram). Neither Robinson nor Smith, however, knew that the remains of ancient cities were buried beneath the mounds we call “tells,” and thus failed to locate such important biblical sites as Lachish, Jericho and Ai.