Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Free trip to Bible Land!

Why do archaeology in Jerusalem? There are plenty of opportunities for tourism. It's the holy city, land of the Bible. David stepped there, Jesus here, Mohammed over there.

The difficulty with archaeology in the region of Palestine is that there are far too many biases as far as interests guided by explicitly biblical proofs. The dilemma of archaeology by such means is that it is pointed toward the releasing the burden of soil on top of sites that can be claimed as having a historical or biblical significance. But such endeavors do not enhance the understanding of humanity as a hole. It is teleological, inherently tied to political agendas of the contentious region by grounding stakes to the land through precedence that is sought to be proven archaeologically. As Ann Killebrew admits, "Whether we like it or not, archaeology of the twenty-first century through necessity (economically, ideologically, and intellectually) will be a more 'public' archaeology wherein we will need to confront all aspects related to the archaeological endeavor and its interface with many publics" (138).  Perhaps more so than most, archaeology within the region must contend with the varying and pressing interests of this land, and the pressures of developing an archaeology that is explicitly political.

It is for this reason that Raphael Greenberg insists the prevalence of local peoples in archaeology of the region. In such a way, there may be an attempt to save the archaeological integrity of the region for intellectual pursuits rather than those aimed at a political instantiation. The trouble with archaeology in Jerusalem is that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all hold a stake in the area. If archaeological pursuits were to be interested as a religious pursuit, as it has so inherently been in the past, then the myriad of other contexts are ignored and destroyed in the destructive process of archaeological excavation. Thus, Greenberg presents a list of considerations for archaeologists, akin to an ethical code of conduct for archaeologists, in order to devoid themselves of as much political bias as possible. Of course, such a desire is quite idealistic, though nevertheless imperative to be aware of in a self-reflexive archaeology that may have some intellectual poignancy instead of archaeology being a political handmaiden for the region.

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