The Danish archaeologist Hans Kjaer, who excavated Shiloh in 1926 and 1929, hoped to find “the very place of the old sanctuary,” but he failed, as have others before him and since. The contour map is based on a map drawn by the architect of the Danish expedition.

Israel Finkelstein, director of the new dig at Tell Shiloh, proposes that the Shiloh Tabernacle was located on the summit of the tell. However, there does not seem to be enough level ground to support the Tabernacle and courtyard, if we assume the dimensions given in Exodus 26 and 27.

In his 1873 report to the Palestine Exploration Fund, Charles Wilson described “a sort of level court” at Tell Shiloh. This “level court” about 160 yards north of the tell, stands out in the aerial photograph below taken in February 1983. It is about 400 feet long and 77 feet wide, much larger than any level spot on the summit of the tell. “There is no other level space on the ‘Tell’ sufficiently large to receive a tent of the dimensions of the Tabernacle,” Wilson reported.

Author Kaufman has given this level court three section designations, A, B and C (see aerial photos). The sections are aligned east-west, as was the Tent of Meeting during the Exodus wanderings. Kaufman asserts that the Israelites setting up the sanctuary at Shiloh would definitely have attempted to align it east-west.

Surrounding Wilson’s court, as the aerial photos and the map of the tell show, are steep slopes, with the exception of the southern side of the tell. Here on the south is the only road to the tell. The slopes, Kaufman argues, would have provided natural protection for a Tabernacle north of the city.

A careful reading of the Biblical text supports a location for the Tabernacle north of Shiloh. When a messenger was sent to Eli, high priest of the Shiloh Temple, to tell him of the death of his sons at Eben-Ezer and the capture of the Ark, “the whole town cried out” with the news even before the messenger reached Eli. Since the road into the town then, as now, was only from the south, Eli—sitting near the Temple and hearing the cries of the people—must have been north of the town (1 Samuel 4:12–14).

Israeli archaeologist Ze’ev Yeivin recently excavated Wilson’s court, but found no remains dating to Iron Age I, when the Tabernacle was first set up at Shiloh.