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14272Re: SV: [ANE-2] Politicization of Archaeology in the Middle East

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  • eliot braun
    May 10, 2012
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      After 38 years of working archaeology in Israel I will say that never, during 28 of them when I worked for the govt. was I told, hinted at or otherwise influenced to subvert my perception of the archaeological record. Not only that, but while in the early years of the state there was a major push towards finding the past of ancient Israel and Jews, it is long since gone! One need only look at the lists of publications of Israeli institutions to understand that. In Israel there is a spate of work being done on Byzantine and later Islamic periods with no bias one way or the other. While a small collection of Israelis and Palestinians seem to have political axes to grind, my experience is that most are intent on revealing the past, as best as may be done. There are certainly no directives towards anything else. Any such idea is just another canard, one in a long line of canards that arrive from certain directions at regular intervals. I suggest that
      people take a good look at the publications of other countries in the region and see that nationalistic interpretations are not at all confined to Israeli publications. It's just that certain people seem only to pick up only on them because they have very specific agendas put blinders on them. Narrow horizons do not make for good scholarship. 

      Eliot Braun, Ph D.
      Sr. Fellow WF Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem
      Associate Researcher Centre de Recherche Français de Jérusalem
      PO Box 21, Har Adar 90836 Israel
      Tel 972-2-5345687, Cell 972-50-2231096

      From: Niels Peter Lemche <npl@...>
      To: "ANE-2@yahoogroups.com" <ANE-2@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2012 10:33 AM
      Subject: SV: [ANE-2] Re: Qeiyafa discoveries

      I know of the European project, we up here were competitors but lost.

      Otherwise I will not interfere with your process of running backwards. Any politicians in the family?

      Now to see how this kind of archaeology is seen among Scandinavian archaeologists, let me quote from the introduction to Oestigaard, "Political Archaeology ..." (p.7):

      "Biblical archaeology and Israeli national archaeology are branches of archaeology with little impact in the general archaeological debate because its practitioners are only dealing with a little time segment and certain specific problems in the Middle East. But as a result of this, these branches of archaeology have an almost exclusive hegemony in the knowledge production upon which Israel bases its nation state. The general attitude towards biblical archaeology and Israel's past within the archaeological circles in Northern Europe is that the past is politically misused in the Middle East and that biblical archaeology research and Israeli nationalist archaeology are biased. When I started working with biblical archaeology very few of my colleagues understood why I bothered. Biblical archaeological approaches to the past are not "scientific" and its scholars are not part of the theoretical discourse, with the consequence that there was, allegedly, no
      need to worry."

      But again, how this discussion strayed from its home to ANE-2 is past my knowledge.

      At least everything along this line should be cc to Biblical studies.

      Niels Peter Lemche

      -----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
      Fra: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:ANE-2@yahoogroups.com] På vegne af Douglas Petrovich
      Sendt: den 10 maj 2012 03:50
      Til: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
      Emne: [ANE-2] Re: Qeiyafa discoveries


      On the contrary, nothing I said is horrible talk. Obviously you (and Raz) read a bit too much into my words, which would not be the first time (though perhaps not for Raz). To you both, I would state unequivocally that I never advocated an un-careful or imprecise approach to excavation. I simply stated the obvious: the time it takes to excavate per meter is vastly different between a site with 26 occupational levels and a site with 2 occupational levels. Any on-list archaeologist who chimes in would agree with this, I would venture my lunch money.

      But even with this as a given, the speed with which a team digs down depends on a myriad of factors: number of diggers; experience, strength, and fitness of diggers; daily hours of work; temperature during work hours; time of year; types of tools; lengths of breaks; type of soil; system of record-keeping; etc., etc.

      “He is destroying his evidence without even being able to document what he is doing.”

      This implies a dubious presupposition: the certainty of the presence of actual, artifactual evidence. If he is digging down from ground level, and there are no occupational levels until the Hellenistic period, what evidence is there to find? Whether he knows that ahead of time or not, which he very well may, is even somewhat irrelevant.

      On one of my digs, I began a square from virgin soil and did not reach any occupational level until the Persian period. We dug at a solid clip until we reached that level, at which time we slowed down tremendously. This is how archaeology works. There is no requirement to wet-sift soil that has no artifactual evidence in it, and there is no need to dig it with a trowel on hands and knees.

      This is especially true when the chief archaeologist on the dig knows that there is no occupational level where you’re digging, and he/she wants you to “move along” rapidly. I had to do this on numerous occasions, which is difficult because of my meticulous personality. However, when the chief excavator is confident, and calls the shots, it is time to dig faster and deeper with each thrust of the shovel.

      This is simply reality in the archaeological world. It may seem different in a 5th-floor office, but so be it. During such times of digging, the only artifacts that are found, anyway, are those out of stratigraphical sequence, such as random potsherds or scarabs. But as to whether Garfinkel has destroyed any of his evidence is a curious claim to make without specific evidence to support the charge. Did he commit any archaeological faux pas? I do not know, but I cannot accept your claim uncritically. If higher criticism teaches us anything, it is to be a critical thinker. So I would suggest that we be so and do so with Garfinkel.

      “With Garfinkel's speed he could easily go through 2 or 3 layers without recognizing it.”

      This sounds ominous, but the point becomes mute if no wrong practices were practiced, and if no phases were missed. Moreover, even if, for example, he plowed through a Byzantine squatter’s layer because he wanted to get to the Iron-Age levels, all he does in effect—as far as the Iron-II (and/or late Iron-I) evidence goes, anyway—is invalidate evidence from the Byzantine layer; the value of his work on the Iron-Age level(s) is NOT automatically invalidated or compromised.

      Any suggestions to the opposite are just illogical and misleading to those who read the reports that we fieldworkers prepare. Could Garfinkel have done a sloppy job on the Iron-Age levels? Sure, it is possible. However, the speed with which he arrived at that level, and the potential damage he may have done to potentially later phases, has nothing to do with determining how well he excavated the Iron levels, or whether we can judge his findings to be untrustworthy. Niels, you really need to be careful with your criticisms and evaluations here.

      “And as some of the layers at Megiddo are up to a meter deep, this is not an excuse for being sloppy.”

      Agreed. But you are preaching to the choir here.

      “If there is no money enough--and money is certainly also a problem at Megiddo--then there is no money, and the excavation has to wait for another day.”

      I was not referring to Finkelstein’s Megiddo dig at all, though certainly he has less problems with support-raising than 99.9% of the chief archaeologists out there, especially with people such as Eric Cline behind and involved with his dig.

      No, I was referring to Finkelstein’s “Reconstructing Ancient Israel” project, which is funded by the coffers of the European Research Council. This is a multi-million-dollar goldmine designed to propagate (exponentially!) his late-date, non-united-monarchy perspective. Everybody digging in Israel knows about this, and I would be shocked if it is news to you. The $65,000 question, of course, is how many scholars Finkelstein put on the payroll who oppose his views. How do you spell “objective scholarship”, again?

      “Garfinkel is destroying out [sic] past and I suggest that there is a special political reason for doing it.”

      This accusation is pure silliness unless there is evidence to prove otherwise.

      “As his aim is to prove the Bible right, he of course know in advance what he will find.”

      Come on, Niels, how do you know this? If I can hear confirmation of this from several Israeli archaeologists from varying camps, such as Aren Maeir or the like, then I would consider this potentially credible. Until then, the only thing I have to say is that I wonder how many archaeologists you have accused similarly who have not produced evidence that compromises major positions you hold or agendas you have.

      Yours for the enjoyment of the process,

      Doug Petrovich
      Toronto, Canada

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