The Politics of Archaeology in Israel

The Politics of Archaeology in Israel The Politics of Archaeology in Israel

Status: Finished

Genre: Non-Fiction



Status: Finished

Genre: Non-Fiction



The following book provides a synthesis on the history of the politicization of the practice of archaeology in Palestine. Its purpose is to demonstrate the various aspects that have influenced the practice of archaeology in Palestine and how these aspects have come to reinforce themselves. Various topics, starting with the nineteenth century’s search for Biblical remains, the creation of the Israeli state, the destruction of archaeological evidence, reburial practices, the tourist industry, and the effects of the evangelical movement in Palestine are examined in this thesis. Investigation into the maintenance, interpretation and/or destruction of archaeological sites is studied.
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The following book provides a synthesis on the history of the politicization of the practice of archaeology in Palestine. Its purpose is to demonstrate the various aspects that have influenced the practice of archaeology in Palestine and how these aspects have come to reinforce themselves. Various topics, starting with the nineteenth century’s search for Biblical remains, the creation of the Israeli state, the destruction of archaeological evidence, reburial practices, the tourist industry, and the effects of the evangelical movement in Palestine are examined in this thesis. Investigation into the maintenance, interpretation and/or destruction of archaeological sites is studied.

Chapter1 (v.1) - The Politics of Archaeology in Israel

Author Chapter Note

The following book provides a synthesis on the history of the politicization of the practice of archaeology in Palestine. Its purpose is to demonstrate the various aspects that have influenced the practice of archaeology in Palestine and how these aspects have come to reinforce themselves. Various topics, starting with the nineteenth century’s search for Biblical remains, the creation of the Israeli state, the destruction of archaeological evidence, reburial practices, the tourist industry, and the effects of the evangelical movement in Palestine are examined in this thesis. Investigation into the maintenance, interpretation and/or destruction of archaeological sites is studied.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 27, 2010

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 27, 2010




by Yavirac


Chapter Page I. Introduction

Colonialism and Biblical Archaeology

II. The British mandate and orientalism


III. Organizations and societies

Antiquities Organizations

IV. fighting for land AND county

Immigration and Land Acquisitions

V. the construction of israel


Excavations and National Identity After 1967

VI. Biblical Debates

Minimalist vs. Maximalist

VII. Destruction and Reburials

Destruction of Artifacts and Sites

Human Remains

VIII. Tourism and the formation of Israel

Tourism Before 1948

Tourism After 1948

Evangelicals and Archaeology

IX. Conclusion Chapter Page

APPENDIX A a note on historiography


List of Tables

Table Page 1. The Historical-Archaeological Periods

List of MAPS Map Page 1. Archaeological sites in Israel, West Bank and Gaza


In 1890, the British archaeologist William Matthew Flinders Petrie excavated at a site in Palestine identified as Tell el-Hesy. The excavations at Tell el-Hesy allowed Petrie to construct a chronology based on a comparison of pottery types found there with Palestinian pottery from his earlier excavations in Egypt. Petrie was the first to provide this type of ceramic classification and sequence for Palestine. His scientific efforts however, were overshadowed by what was considered his ‘greatest contribution’ to the study of ancientPalestine; his search for Biblical remains. At Tell el-Hesy, Petrie claimed that he had found one of the most famous and well known Biblical towns, Lachish (Map 1). Petrie wrote that “This was an early city, repeatedly fortified, and…doubtless was the ancient Lachish.”1 According to the Hebrew Bible (Jeremiah 34, 1, 7), Lachish was conqueredby both the Assyrians and Babylonians.

While he was hailed for finding Lachish, Petrie’s archaeological chronology of Palestinian pottery was overlooked. His identification of Tell el-Hesy as Lachish was disproved after his lifetime, but his contribution to the chronology of ceramics in the area remains a great achievement.2 As Silberman states, locating Lachish in Palestine helped spark “the interest of the general public in England,Europe, and America, which continued to be drawn to the prospect of discovering monuments with religious significance.”3 “Discovering the Bible” in the land of Palestine became a motivating factor for scholars, archaeologist and others who were interested in furthering the study of ancient Palestine. This practice of searching in Palestine (and elsewhere) for support of all Biblical texts continues to this day. Has the focus on confirming Biblical texts distorted archaeological interpretation? Archaeology in its pursuit of knowledge is at risk for being used as a political tool by religious and governmental institutions. The construction of histories of the past through the manipulation of archaeological evidence is subject to propagandistic impulses. The glorification of a constructed religious, historical or monumental past through archaeology is a repeated tactic that has often been overused by governments. In the following pages I will argue that archaeology in Israel has been politicized successively through the efforts of colonialists, biblical archaeologists, the process of nation-state building and tourism, and that “the facts” of archaeological investigation have been and continue to be determined through political agendas and biases.

Colonialism and Biblical Archaeology

Archaeology in the Middle East originated as a colonial enterprise. From the extraction of the Assyrian sculptures from Nimrud to the removal of mummies and obelisks from Egypt, the enamored colonialist fulfilled his romantic dreams through the plundering of antiquities. European colonizers not only identified themselves with their objects, they also forged a new identity through the pillaging: that of the archaeologist him or herself. Palestine began to represent the fantasy of the colonizers, a place where they could fulfill their desires of finding the origins of the Bible.

In May 1865, the Palestinian Exploration Fund was created in London with the explicit intention of investigating the archaeology, geography, geology and natural history of the area,4 with the implicit goal of validating the historicity of the Bible. As its charter states, the PEF was founded to be “A society for the accurate and systematic investigation of the archaeology, the topography, the geology and physical geography, the manners and customs of the Holy Land, for Biblical illustration.”5 According to R.A.S. Macalister, once director of the fund, the following guidelines are found in the charter: “The work was to be conducted on strictly scientific principles. The society was to collect facts in every relevant department of knowledge. It was to abstain from controversy, taking no corporate responsibility for such theories of its officers and of others as might appear from time to time in its publications. One of its leading aims would be to contribute to the elucidation of Biblical problems, it was not to be a religious society, committed to any form of dogma.”6 Although the Fund is described as non-sectarian and non-religious, the first president of the Fund was the Archbishop of York.7 The next president was the Archbishop of Canterbury.8 The Fund not only sought financial support for the exploration of Jerusalem’s holy sites but also emphasized that “biblical scholars may yet receive assistance in illustrating the sacred texts from the careful observations of the manners and people of the Holy Land.”9 The Fund was formed by scholars who were Christian and mostly Protestant.10 The majority of the writers and scholars for the Fund were reverends.11 The Fund also included many military men with an interest in map making. The Fund’s emphasis on Biblical sites and on finding biblical ethnographic evidence is indicative of bias in the very foundation of its organization. The focus on the Bible was further emphasized by the centenary exhibition of the Fund at the Victoria and Albert Museum was titled “World of the Bible.”12

The British War office cooperated with the Fund, and participated in a survey in 1871, the intent of which was to recover the historical roots and truths of Christendom.13 Soldiers and scholars in the “Land of the Bible” sought to prove the historicity of the Book “scientifically.” 14 European and especially English society was religiously conservative at the time, and even in scholarly circles the Old and New Testament were considered infallible sources of history. “Bishop James Usher’s chronology, which placed the creation of the world around 4000 B.C., was accepted as fact.”15 Most archaeologists working in Palestine in the 19th and 20th centuries were Biblical scholars; the geography of the Biblewas familiar to them, and so excavated remains were usually interpreted under a Biblical rubric.

Beginning in the late 19th century, the journals covering the archaeology of Palestine, were based upon a Biblical foundation and interpretation.16 These journals were the Palestine Exploration Fund’s Quarterly Statement, (P.E.F.) the Journal of Palestine on Oriental Studies (JPOS) and the Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities of Palestine (QDAP). There were five foreign schools of archaeology operating in Jerusalem prior to WorldWar I: French, American, German, British, and Italian. It was the British,however, who dominated the archaeology of Palestine. In the fifty years between 1864and 1914, the British were responsible for ten excavations andtwo important surveys; the Germans were responsible for six excavations,while the Americans were responsible for one. 17 Of these, the most methodologically significant – those that established fundamental procedures of fieldwork were probably the excavations of Flinders Petrie atTell al-Hesy and George Reisner at Sebastia between 1908 and 1910.18Sebastia, corresponding to Biblical Samaria, was the first major American excavation in Palestine (1908-1910). This Biblical site was specifically chosen by a group of Biblical scholars from Harvard.19Other Biblical sites were Tell Balata, Biblical Shechem and Gezer, excavated by G. E. Wright in1965,and Tellel- Qedah, which corresponds to the Biblical Hazor. And, archaeologistH. J. Franken, excavated TellDeir ‘Alla specifically because he wanted to locate the transition from Late Bronze to Iron I,the period of theBiblical conquest.20

For Europe of the 19th and early 20th centuries the Orient was alien, and was “thesymbol of ‘the other.” 21 Nineteenth-century Biblical archaeologists regarded the ethnography of Palestinetogether withtexts and monuments from Egypt and Mesopotamia as keys to the Bible. According to the archaeologist Albert Glock, for example, Clermont-Ganneauclaimed in 1875 “the Arabs of central Palestine were modern representatives of the Cannanites, who had no written sources to make them stand out as the Jewish counterparts did.”22 Glock states that “ethnography in the hands of Biblical archaeologists allowed Palestinian peoplenoidentity or integrity; they were regarded as living models of a dead past.”23 The belief was that the peoples of Palestine were the direct descendants of the Bronze Age inhabitants, furthering the age-old concept of the stagnant and inscrutable East. The concept of the East frozen in time is displayed in a variety of books, such as Philip Baldensperger’s book on Palestine published in 1913, “The Immovable East”; E.W. Lane’s 1836 book titled “Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians”; and G. Dalman’s “Life and Custom in Palestine” published in 1928.

Since Israel was the homeland of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, it was the root of the whole religious, thus “civilized,” world. In this organic concept of “civilization,” the past was seen as a necessary part of the present Western identity; its place in the serial development to the present was of paramount importance. It was in the Heideggerian terms of Being-in-the World that Palestine derived an importance in the temporal structure of European metahistorical narrative.24 As Heidegger notes: “world historical entities do not get their historical character, let us say, by reason of a historiological objectification; they get it rather as those entities which they are in themselves when they are encountered within-the-world.”25 Because outstanding and important Biblical finds were discovered in areas primarily inhabited by Arabs, the colonialists could not correlate the finds with the local inhabitants whom they considered to be inferior to themselves. In order to see themselves in the grandeur of their excavations and also to reconcile their ideas of a continuum of civilization as a progress of one organic whole, they then passed “civilization” off from the Christian (Hebrew/New Testament) roots of Palestine off to Greece and Rome. As Bruce Trigger claims: “While the colonizers had every reason to glorify their own past, they had no reason to extol the past of the peoples they were subjugating and supplanting. Indeed, they sought by emphasizing the primitiveness and lack of accomplishments of these peoples to justify their own treatment.”26

The modern inhabitants of the area had to be disassociated from its past, and the chaotic ancient time was brought within the linear development of “civilization.” The belief in “linear time” allowed for the arrogance of proselytizing and conversions. The concept of linear time was conceived out of the Judeo Christian tradition.27 In order for missionaries to christianize the pagans and others, they needed “Time to accommodate the schemes of a one-way history: progress, development, modernity.”28 The missionaries were co-conspirators in the colonizers’ agenda, and American Biblical archaeology was linked from its conception to the American missionary movement in the Levant.29 The colonizers, archeologists and missionaries not only demonstrated an interest in finding traces of the origins of their own imagined and desired identities, but used Time to exclude the “other” from history and modernity. These concepts helped pave the way to the mistreatment of peoples and the pillaging of antiquities. As Z. Bahrani points out, “the structuring of historical time is not only a teleological device, it is a temporal framework which is necessary for the operations of taxonomy which were so crucial for the colonialist project.”30 Thus, “civilization” had to be placed in antiquity and detached from the local inhabitants.

Moreover, the colonizers, with supreme arrogance, looked down upon the local inhabitants and viewed them as the “subject race.” For example, Lord Cromer, England’s representative in Egypt as well as an eminent scholar, is known for having stated that, “Western knowledge and experience tempered by local considerations, we conscientiously think is best for the subject race.”31 Furthermore, Cromer was opposed to “Egyptian nationalism, free native institutions, the absence of foreign occupation, or a self sustaining national sovereignty.”32 Cromer further mentions in his writings that “Accuracy is abhorrent to the Oriental mind…The mind of the Oriental, like his picturesque streets, is eminently wanting in symmetry. His reasoning is of the most slipshod description. Although the ancient Arabs acquired in a somewhat higher degree the sciences of the dialectics, their descendants are singularly deficient in the logical faculty.” He also states that the Arabs are “devoid of energy and initiative….cunning, inveterate liars, lethargic and suspicious.”33 It should be noted that Balfour, the British foreign secretary, highly praised Lord Cromer for his service to England in Egypt in 1907. Cromer even received from Balfour a retirement prize of 50,000 pounds for his work in Egypt.34 Similarly, R.A.S. Macalister, director of a society ostensibly established to explore rather than condemn, cautioned archaeologists about the Arabs: “The excavator who would work on the land of a dweller in Silwan must expect to be confronted daily with some new annoyance, carefully schemed out in order to increase the exorbitant fee – blackmail rather than rent – which has already passed from his scanty funds into his landlord’s pocket.”35

From the colonizers’ perspective, ‘primitive societies’ were seen as cunning, out of control, and untrustworthy. Furthermore, they were seen as ‘simple’ and inferior to the superior technology and administrationof their imperialistic dominators. Rowlands states that “Being inferior was defined by an evolutionary scale ofvalues that was experienced and believed in by both dominators anddominated. Social inequality is, therefore, redolent with the definitions ofinferiority characteristic of a historically specific scale of values. This iswhy stratification, urbanism, etc., must stand as its defining characteristics.”According to Weber, whoever is in a position to define the scale of valuesforms “positively privileged status groups”. Exclusion was themajor form of social closure and broadly referred to any device,stratagem, or indicator that was used by one group to define another asinferior in a scale of values of its own making.36 Christian tradition was therefore part of a more “universal discoursethat defined evil as a threatening power which dissolved ‘difference’ and thusundermined the unity of the cosmos.”37 The practice of purification, for example, puts a stop to ‘unacceptable forms of difference’ and rests on the belief in theexistence of certain categories of human being who embodycorruption and evil.38

In sum, the doctrines of Christian missionaries aided the colonizers in perceiving the natives of Palestine as inferior and outside the realm of the ‘history’ and archaeology of the area. Theindigenous population of Palestine had long been both Arab and Jewish, but it is clear from the commentaries of such emissaries as Lord Crommer that, while the Jewish population was accepted because of its Biblical origins, the Arab population was not.


The act of disassociating the natives from their past was thus done out of bias, and this prejudice spread into European political interpretations of the ancient past itself. The “founder” of political science, Montesquieu (1689-1755) proposed the idea that there were three types of government: the republic, the monarchy and despotism. According to Montesquieu, despotism was the government of Asia.39 Balfour supported these ideas in such declarations as: “the East you never find traces of self government…(All Oriental countries) have been passed under despotism, under absolute government.” He further mentions that the Oriental countries have not been able “to establish what we, from a Western point of view, call self-government.”40 Thus, the comparison of governments between Oriental and Western not only served to justify England’s presence in Egypt (1882-1907) but also served to highlight the West’s superiority over the East. These ideas even prevailed up to the 1950’s and led to the formulation of a theory on the correlation between despotic regimes and irrigation presented clearly in 1955 in Karl Wittfogel’s book Oriental Despotism. Here he tried to demonstrate that societies “grounded in irrigation ‘hydraulic societies’ as he called them, are necessarily despotic and must necessarily have the kinds of social and political properties that earlier writers had associated with Oriental despotism.”41 These ideas enhanced in some way a typology of the despot, where the image appears repeatedly, as for example, in the interpretation of Assyrian art and sculpture as despotic by Pittman and by Russell, who assert that the entire building of Sennarcherib’s palace is an example of oppressive propaganda. 42


Interest in the East was sparked by publications of descriptions of the area after Napoleon Bonapart’s failed expedition to Egypt in 1798. The Description de L’Egypte (1809 –28) for example, was one of such volumes with massive folios and sketches. The process continued in Mesopotamia with the collection of whatturned out to be Assyrian art treasures excavated frommounds in theMosul area by Paul Emile Botta (1802-70) and Austin Henry Layard (1817-94). In thecourse of expeditions to the Middle East, 19th century Europe discovered evidence of theseveral “high cultures”, many predating Biblical history.By the end of the nineteenth century the ancient physical remains were often explored by Europeans for their edification and education;the assumption wasthat the living populations of Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Egypt were not“sufficiently educated to appreciate their unique and ancient heritage. Indeed,Westerners laid claim to ancient Near Eastern cultural treasures as their ownheritage rather than that of the residents or ‘peasants’ and town dwellers of the nineteenth centuryMiddle East. It was clear that while Europewas a cultural cross between Athens and Jerusalem, the foundations of Athens andJerusalem had been laid by the “high cultures” of the ancient Near East.43 Europe looked to the ‘high cultures’ of the Near East in its exploration of its own roots forming relationships and ideas about what it was encountering. According to J. Fabian, “as relationships between peoples and societies that study and those that are studied, relationships between anthropology and its object are inevitably political; production of knowledge occurs in a public forum of intergroup, interclass, and international relations.”44 A prime example of this was the Orientalist and Assyriology schools.

Orientalist schools emerged in the 1880’s and continue to this day. The study of Oriental cultures emerged as the study of the world of exotica, but as Wallerstein mentions “once again, they were studied not in a universalistic mode (as was Europe’s present) or historically (as was Europe’s past) but as remnants of previously unchanging particularities, that is, as precious, if decaying, dollhouses.”45 Furthermore, Orientalist schools were conceived and created in the interest of Biblical scholarship.46 The Bible, for most Near Eastern scholars and archaeologists, was a historic text. The archaeological study of the Bible as history also tended to disregard other histories not mentioned in the Bible.

Around the period before World War I, the concernwith the religious question developed into a series ofattempts to create grand schemes of historical interpretation on theevidence and archaeological remains from the ancient Near East.47 In the new and somewhat obscurespeciality of Assyriology, a central debate developed in Germany known as the ‘Babel andBible’ controversy. The main focus and aim of this school of thought, according to Mogens Larsen, “was tolocate the Old Testament, and consequently the Jewish faith, in a NearEastern cultural context - andsurprisingly, it was possible for at least someof the scholars involved in these feats of scholarship to find a meaningfulrelationship between the worlds of the ancient Near East and modernChristianity. The Jewish world and its religion was bypassed, or jumpedover, and the symbol of the direct connection between Babylon andChristianity became the Three Wise Men from the East who came to dohomage to the Savior in Bethlehem. ”48

Before the British Mandate occupied Palestine, the Palestinians resisted the Ottoman Empire’s desire to impose the Turkish language and culture upon them. Joiningforces with Arab opposition in other parts of the empire, the Arabs of Palestine began topress for autonomy.49 During this time, a vast number of Jewish immigrants immigrated to Palestine; thus Arab farmers and Bedouins started losing land andaccess to grazing, while the wealthy urban class began to face the possibility of Jewish economic competition. The new Ottoman rulers, however, “were not only indifferent to Arab protestations but believed that it was intheir own interest to cooperate with the Zionists. As a. result, they abolished immigration restrictions of Jews to Palestine and permitted landsales.”50

Following the defeat of the Ottoman Turks in World War I and the European reorganization of Greater Syria, the British were grantedmandatory power over Palestine. Their support of Zionist aspirations, ascodified in the Balfour Declaration (1917), laid the foundation for the emergence of the Israeli state and “a geographically defined Palestinian nationalism.”51 According to Michael Prior, the British considered Palestine an “area to be vital to its strategic interests, being a buffer against Egypt and a means of protecting the Suez Canal as its route to India, and a link between its interests there and its hoped-for interests in Iraq.”52 Furthermore, a Jewish Palestine would serve the British as a bastion between themselves and the Arab states who had recently declared their independence from Ottoman rule.

In short, British Mandatory control over Palestine not only allowed for the documentation, classification, and “discovery” of the Holy land, it also perpetuated Eurocentric ideas of superiority and right to rule.


TheBritish Department of Antiquities in Palestine was established in 1920, just prior to the Mandate, andwas staffed by Britons, Palestinians, and Jews. Unfortunately, there were no serious efforts by Mandate authorities totrain andencourage Palestinian archaeologists to become professionals. “Palestine’s population in 1922 was 744,431 (excluding occupying British forces): 589,177Muslims(including Bedouin), 71,464 Christians and 83,790 Jews (including immigrants)”53Large numbers of Jewish immigrants had emigrated to Israel following “intense anti-Semitic persecutions in Russia in 1881-2. Jewish immigrationchanged the face of the land; between 1881 and 1922 the Jewish population more thantripled (rising from 24,000 to nearly 84,000) and immense tracts of land were boughtup by the Jewish colonies.”54 Many of theJewish immigrants to Palestine had received most or part oftheir education in Europe, where archaeology had evolved. Thus, they found the discipline ofarchaeology stimulating from an intellectual point of view and, from anationalistic point ofview, crucial to establishing and creating their identity with the land. Antiquities Organizations

Archaeology originated largelyas a Western intellectual creation. Thus, the first organizations of residents in Israel to support thesearch for thearchaeological past were the Jewish immigrant scholars who had been educated in Europe. The first organization formed was the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society (JPES) in 1914. The first bulletin published by the JPES was issued in 1933.

The Jewish Palestinian Exploration Society strove to find Biblical remains in the land, and as Glock states, “It is evident that there was a need and a means to fulfill that need thatwere not felt bythe Arab population, whose attachment to the land was not based on the biblical connectionbutrather on long-term presence.”55 Islamic tradition for example, did not cultivate historical scholarship of non Islamic materials.As a consequence, the archaeology of Palestine was left to Biblical scholars with westernperspectives. The Jewish Palestine Exploration Society was founded byMahum Slouschz, and its first excavation took place in 1921-22, atHammath-Tiberias. The cities most important for the Jews were Jerusalem, Tiberias, Zfat, and Hebron, since these areas were said to contain more Jewish artifacts than other areas (Map 1).56 By 1928, E.L. Sukenik was in charge of the Archaeology Department ofHebrew University, which had been foundedin 1925.For the Palestinian population, who composed a three-quarters majority, there was nocomparable association or institution. The only possibilities forArabs lay in the British Mandate’s Department of Antiquities and the BritishSchool of Archaeology in Jerusalem. As early as 1920, the Department of Antiquities was actively preparing for the training of archaeologists. However, noArab students benefited from this educational opportunity.57 Thus, from its inception, Biblical archaeology in Palestine was discriminatory and excluded Palestinians not only from their own history but also from general possibilities within the archeological field.

It was a different story for Palestine’s Jewish population. According to Nadia Abu El Haj, “The struggle forJewish archaeology was more specific. In the context of the Jewish Yishuv (Jewish community),in which much was esteemed in terms of its contribution to the nationalinterest, Jewish archaeology strove to fashion itself as an integral player inits wider social and political field. Jewish archaeologists worked to inserttheir discipline into the (colonial) national political project, in part, atfirst, in order to attain their own (emergent) disciplinary goals.” 58 That is, the Jewish immigrants felt the need to legitimize their presence in the area through building disciplines, creating institutions, and practicing archaeology. The creation of the Jewish Exploration Society, for example, was one more step in the direction of discipline building and legitimacy. As R.A.S. Macalister notes: “The Jewish aspirations with regard to Palestine naturally look backward as well as forward. It is not to be expected that they would allow ‘Gentiles’ to garner all the field of historical research.”59 Jewish immigrants, in fact, imitated the British, and so appeared more capable and British-like. For example, while the British Mandate excavated biblical sites such as Megiddo and Lachish, the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society conducted excavations mostly of synagogues and tombs.60 While Jewish and British archaeologists found similarities among themselves in their affinity for the past, Jewish archaeologist tried to instill the love of the past in the newly arrived Jewish population. Thus, for them, archaeology was not just a scientific endeavor but, more important, a national-cultural one. The excavations carried out in Tiberias in 1920 by the Jewish Palestinian Exploration Society support this point. Yeivin, the chair of the society from 1944-46, and the first director of the Department of Antiquities stated that “I must point out that the excavations done on behalf of the Society were carried out by Jewish researchers and workers. Many people who live in the agricultural settlements joined the work…discovering and uncovering the treasures of the homeland. In this manner the collaboration between researchers and the yishuv, between the past and present, was created.”61

Educating the citizenry on the value of antiquities was promoted as a duty that the Jewish Palestine ExplorationSociety had to be responsible for.62 The Society organized and held the first‘Knowledge of the Land’ conference in Jerusalem inOctober 1943. It was the “first attempt to establish a living connectionbetween those working in the science of the Land of Israel, and the publicat large.”63 The conference allowed for scientists and the public at large to meet, and so the scientists could inculcate the importance of archaeology to the immigrants. The population at large was initially not very interested in national heritage, or archaeology, for that matter.64 Thus, the conferences provided a platform where each immigrant could participate in researching the history of the country, so becomefamiliar with their new ‘homeland’.65 Thus, according to Abu El Haj, “the ideology of facticity that governed archaeological practice was essential to establishing the historic truth of the Jewish national return.”66 Interest in archaeology sprang from a desire or belief in the national return. Thus, archaeology “rendered demonstrable the ideological contours of Jewish settlement in Palestine – that, in contrast to colonial projects elsewhere, this was simply a nation returning home.”67

It is clear that the British were deeply interested in the archaeology of Palestine as early as 1919 when they opened the doors to the British Schoolof Archaeology in Jerusalem and the Department of Antiquities for Palestine.These two organizations were stationed in the same building until 1930. From 1930 untilafter WorldWar II, the British School of Archaeology was housed with the AmericanSchool of Oriental Research. As for the Department of Antiquities, the director aswell as the Advisory Board were appointed by the high commissionerfrom the British, French, American, and Italian schools of archaeology inJerusalem.According to Glock, “Of the ninety-four persons on the payroll of the Department of Antiquity on 31, March 1947,six were British Christians, twenty-two werePalestinian Christians, six were Armenians, fifty-one were Palestinian Muslims, andnine were Jews.”68 The Palestinian employees were a majority, which should not be surprising given their overwhelming numericalsuperiority on the ground. But by and large they served as guardians at sitesaround the country, museum guards and attendants, messengers, and cleaners.69

The Jewish employees were in higher positions since nine of the Jewish employees had university degrees, including three doctorates (fromRome, Florence, and Basel), and one master’s. In modern capitalist societies, for example, Weber claimed that the twomain criteria that the bourgeoisie use to construct and maintain itself as aclass are property and privileged access to professional qualifications andcredentials. Each is defined by a set of legal arrangements to restrict accessto rewards and privileges, and to monitor entry to key positions withinthe division of labor.70 But employment, or possibilities of attaining credentials, was not the only area from which Palestinians were excluded.

TheAmerican School of Oriental Research aided in the formation of the Palestine Oriental Society in 1920, thankslargely to the energy of Professor A.T. Clay of Yale University. Membership to the American School of Oriental Research inJerusalem had always been dominated by foreigners, most nonresident.In 1932, for example, out of 191 members, 10 wereresident Palestinians, 22 were resident Jews, 42 were resident foreigners, and17 were nonresidents. From the material published by Palestinians in both the Journal of Palestine on Oriental Studies (JPOS) and the Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities of Palestine (QDAP), it seemsclear that there were learned Palestinians capable of dealing with both thearchaeology and ethnography of Palestine. Glock stresses that “of the many reasons they did notflourish after the 1948 disaster, two seem to be paramount: first, the turmoilresulting from the influx of refugees inside a sealed border now one-third ofthe former Palestine; and second, the lack of local academic institutions supportingscholarship in the Arab community.71 Archaeology thus was an institution that was to be guarded and kept as a colonialist enterprise.

The archaeological study of the Bible as history tends to disregard other documented histories not mentioned in the Bible. Thus, as Whitelam states, “the ancient past belongs to Israel since this is the way it has been presented from the inception of modern biblical studies”72 Archaeology has furthered the reliability of the Bible since, as Nadia Abu El Haj states, “The very process of surveying and excavating artifacts, and namingspecific sites and places across the terrain instantiated the colonial-nationalimagination’s most fundamental grammar in empirical and factual form. In other words, archaeologicaldata helped to make real the truth of (settler) nationhood.”73

The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry (established in 1946), concluded that Palestine hadnot been colonized by the British because it was inhabited by a “primitive”people in “need of tutelage,” but rather because of its “historic significance,”and the necessity of it being open to all religions.74 Chapter VII of the Committee’s report specifically states that “The significance of Palestine since prehistoric times in the development of civilization cannot be overestimated. Nor should the interests of archaeology and history be forgotten. The maintenance of conditions under which such studies can be pursued is a genuine concern of civilization.”75 Palestine was seen as a place that belonged to ‘civilization’ due to its Biblical connections. In Jerusalem, for example, the archaeological endeavors of the multiple foreign communities still bore the marks of religious and politicalconcerns. According to Silberman “theRussian Orthodox Palestine Society excavated on its property near theChurch of the Holy Sepulcher, and additional investigations were undertaken by the French Dominicans at the site of their new churchto thenorth of the city, by the Augustinians near their monastery on MountLion, by the White Friars at St. Stephen’s Gate, and by the ReverendSelah Merrill, the former explorer for the ill-fated American Palestine Exploration Society… (excavated).. any place he could”76 The connection of past to present was in fact the purpose of the Jewish Palestinian Exploration Society. As Ben Zvi (who later became president of Israel) states, “This is not a university or an academic institution, but a society wherein people of science meet with the public which wants to become acquainted with and to know the homeland; it enables each Jew to participate his best abilities in the research of the country and in the discovery of the treasure hidden therein.”77 Thus, “the science of archaeology came center stage under Britishmandatory rule and Jewish archaeology gradually emerged as an institutional and intellectualendeavor in its own right.” 78

In sum, a variety of supposedly scholarly societies and institutions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were created to validate rather than test the assumptions upon which they were founded. In this process there was almost no possibility of a “rival archaeology” – an alternative archaeology of “Palestine” rather than of “Biblical Israel” – being allowed to encroach upon or threaten preconceived notions of biblical “truth”.


On November 2, 1917, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration(after Arthur Balfour, thenforeignsecretary, and a noted Zionist Christian79), which stated that “His Majesty’s Government views withfavor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewishpeople and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement ofthis objective, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be donewhich may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewishcommunities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed byJews in any other country.”80 Thus, the Balfour Declaration was a sign for the Jews of successful Zionist diplomacy, while for the Arabs it was a declaration of a threat to their way of life. Although many British officers were perhaps impartial regarding the Arab/Jewish situation, the high commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, who took office in July 1920, was a declared Jewish Zionist.81Although most Jews were in favor of Zionist ideas, most of the Orthodox Jews who hadpreceded the Zionist immigrations opposed Zionism, rejecting thewhole Zionist enterprise as “Shabbateanism”(a term derived from false prophets).82

Immigration and Land Acquisitions

Muslim and Christian Palestinians felt threatened by a potential Jewish state, launched countrywide protestmovements, and established local political institutions such asthe Muslim-Christian Association, various nationalist clubs, and, later,the Arab Executive Committee, the first central Palestinian National Authority.83 During the 1930s there were many Arab protests and strikes, focusing on the steady loss of their land. Already under the Ottomans, the Arabs lost their land to the corruption of Ottoman clerks who registered “extensive Jewish land purchases.”84 72% of land purchased between 1879-1890 had previously been owned by the Ottoman government.85 Then in 1901 “the Jewish National Fund began purchasing land for Jewish settlement and agricultural purposes. In many cases the sellers were absentee Arab landlords who had been renting their land to local Arabs.”86 According to Kimmerling, “In the period from 1879-1936, about 53% of the land acquired by the Jews was originally held by absentee large estate proprietors (who mostly resided in Beirut and Cairo).”87 Furthermore, the JNF “retained title to the land it purchased and made sure that only Jews lived or worked on it, thereby eliminating Arab jobs and displacing Arabs whose families had been on the land for generations.” 88 With the influx of immigrants the Jewish population rose from 7% in 1880, to 28% in 1936, to 33% in 1947. 89 Land grabbing started as early as the Mandate period. The British Mandate basically accepted and translated the Ottoman laws as British Mandate laws.

The laws, however, were interpreted by British administrators to their advantage, as in the land dispute case (1917-1948) of two Arab villages, Zor al-Zarqa and Barrat Qisarya, located on the Mediterranean Coast south of Haifa. Geremy Formand and Alexander Kedar both emphasize that “from the beginning of British Rule in Palestine until virtually the end of the Mandate, the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PJCA) attempted to utilize the British political, legal and administrative colonial umbrella in order to acquire the lands..”90 Article Six of the League of Nations Mandate Charter (1922) states that the government of Palestine “shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage...close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.”91 Article Six facilitated the allocation of state lands and waste lands to Jewish settlement, as part of England’s commitment to the Jewish national home. On November 8, 1921 the British authorities and the PJCA signed an agreement that granted the PJCA “ a one-hundred-year renewable lease to approximately 40-50,000 dunams (1 dunam = 0.247 acres), along with the rights to improve and develop the marshland and sand dunes included.”92 Both Zor-al Zarqa and Barrat Qisarya, occupied by Arab tenants, were allocated for Jewish settlement by the British Mandate.93 Thus, the Mandate’s “selective approach to investigating local land rights served the British Mandate government’s ultimate aim at the time, which was gaining control of the land….Overall they limited the local population’s legal claims to cultivated lands and the rights of common of ‘Arab al-Ghawarneh.”94 The Mandate even threatened the villagers with expropriation: “The point of view of the commission is that, if the Arabs should make out their claim to legal rights, the Government would have the right of expropriation of the land; and if that right were exercised the compensation which the Arabs would be entitled to receive for the extinction of their rights would be considerably less than what is being offered to them in terms of settlement.”95 The Mandate authorities wanted to “modernize” the area. The Mandate wanted to drain the marshlands of Zor al- Zarqa and put the desert sand dunes of Barrat Qisarya to greater use, while the Jewish Colonization Association perceived the land as “waste and state land designated for Jewish settlement.”96 The Arab people residing in the area, in contrast, wanted to keep their lifestyle and livelihood. Thus, through the joint efforts of the Mandate and the PJCA, the Arabs were disenfranchised. Once the British Mandate pulled out of Israel, the Palestinians lost more of their land.

In the pre state era the Jewish community was quite small (around 600,000 during the 1948War of Independence) and fairly homogeneous, especially in terms of ethnicorigins.97 Even though it was composed of several class sectors, all were unitedaround the concept of nation building, and the war was immediately followed by waves of mass immigration from both Europe and North Africa and the Middle East. It took about three years for the immigrants to more than double the number of Jewish residents in Israel. Even before 1948, the Nazi regime in Europe had had an immediate effect on both Jewishand Arab communities in Palestine. Between 1931 and 1944, approximately65,000 Jewish immigrants arrived in Palestine. According to Kimmerlng, “Most of the newcomers were from Polandand Germany, and they were mainly well-to-do families of the educatedJewish bourgeoisie. They had a major impact on the local economy,shifting the orientation of the Jewish community from rural to urban.”98Thus Jewish neighborhoods and towns evolved, and “relatively largeand technologically advanced industrial enterprises were established ina short period of time.”99 By the 1930’s, the Jewish population exceededone quarter of the total population of Palestine. The Jews revived a modernized version of the ancient biblicalHebrew, and created a new “national social identity, whichemphasized the differences between them and Diaspora Jewry.”100 The immigrants of the late 1940s and early 1950s weregenerally not educated or socialized as Hebrews or Israelis. In most cases they were noteven Zionists. Rather they were Jews, forced to move from their diaspora locations to Israel.101

With the establishment in 1946 ofthe Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Israeli state followed in 1948. After the 1947 U.N. approval for the resolution on partition, all Muslims, Christians and Jews attempted to secure territory. The British pulled out of Palestine in May 1948. On May 14, 1948 Ben Gurion declared the foundation of the state of Israel in Tel Aviv. During that year, “A warbetweenthe Arab and Israeli forces followed, resulting by July 1949 in the new state of Israeloccupying 73 per cent of what had been Mandate Palestine (the remaining territory- Gazaand the West Bank - was subsequently commandeered by Egypt and Jordan. Some 711,000 (82.6 per cent) of the 861,000 Palestinian Arabs who had livedon the territory that became Israel were forced into exile outside its borders.”102

The Department of Antiquities, which had existedunder the British Mandate, was split between Israel and Jordan.Inthe aftermath of the 1948 war, Israel lost access to the Palestine ArchaeologicalMuseum (now the Rockefeller Museum), the headquarters of theDepartment of Antiquities, and lost access to the facilities of the Instituteof Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Mount Scopus,both of which came under de facto Jordanian control. In July 1948 a newDepartment of Antiquities and Museums was founded under the Israeli Public Works department of the Ministry of Labor, and was latertransferred to the Ministry of Education and Culture in Jordan, the Department of Antiquities wasreorganized with its headquarters in the Roman Theater in Amman. Sincethe dismissal of the department’s British director and all the other Britishholdovers from the Mandate period in 1956, the emphasis was then focused on the East Bankthe Department of Antiquities (of Jordan). After 1948,the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society became the Israel Exploration Society, whichsponsored major excavations at such Biblicalsites as Dan, Hazor,and Beersheba.103


During the early stages of the formation of the state of Israel, archaeology was used in the construction of nationalist enterprises. Kohl states that “Archaeological evidence may be peculiarly susceptible to manipulation fornationalist purposes because it is physical and visible to a nation’s citizenswho interact with it, consciously or not, on a daily basis.”104 Kohl goes on to mention three features of nationalism in Israeli archaeology, which basically started with the Zionist movement “(a) The statesignificance accorded to and popular interest in certain archaeological remains.. (b) Theexcavation and presentation of past remains….directed tothe reconstruction of Iron Age through early Roman times or to the First andSecond Temple periods; and (c) the form of nationalismthat both inspires and sometimes impedes the practice of Israeli archaeology (which) isexplicitly religious, not secular, (and) which means that archaeology fulfills a certainsacred or, for some, sacrilegious function.”105


The Zionist Organization was founded by the Viennese journalist Theodor Herzl HerHerin Basel,Switzerland, in 1897 with the aim of securing Jewish independence. Herzl believed that personal security and liberty for the Jews was anaim inextricably bound up with Jewish political power. While Herzl’s ideas favored a Jewish state, he wrote in his diary that the natives of Palestine were “to be expropriated….both the expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.”106 Zionists such as Yisrael Zangvil, even claimed that “Palestine was a land withouta people for apeople without a land.”107 The entireZionistmovement was built on the premise that the Jews were returning to theirhistoric homeland, and modern archaeology played a decisive role in demonstrating that thiswas not just a myth cherished by the pious but a thoroughlysecular fact that every Jew (and every Christian) could take seriously. Thus, archaeologywas not a neutral subject in the newly formed Jewish state. The Zionist project for Palestine was formulated in terms similar to those that Britons, Frenchmen, Germans, Americans,and Russians had used for territorial expansion. The first Zionists turnedto Palestine as Europeans turned to territories that were declared emptyand uncivilized. The native Arabs were either considered backward ornon-existent.108 The ultimate goal was the acquisition of land.

In the years of struggle leading up tothe establishment of Israel and during its first two decades as a state, the cult of archaeological relics was a determining factor in Israeliculture. It wasideally thought to provide an immigrant society with acommon culture. The apparent obsession with ancient Jewish sites and artifactsgrew out of the feverish search for identity-a secularidentity-which was characteristic of the period.

There are, perhaps, more known ancient sites per square mile in Israel than in any other country. 109Archaeological finds inspired nearly all Israeli national symbols, from the State Seal to postage stamps to medals and coins. Israelicoins, for example were stamped with motifs copied from first-century Jewish silver shekels. The monetary unit was changed from the foreignname lira (i.e. livre, or pound) to shekel, the ancient Hebrew name. Its historic weight alone, as Menachem Begin, (leader of Israel’s opposition from 1948-1977 and Prime Minister of Israel from 1977-1983) put it, “would make it oneof the world’s hard currencies at par with the American dollar”.110In the ethnocentric atmosphere of the early years there was a rush toidentify Jewish sites, an overemphasis on digging them up, and animmediacy to expose to public view the Jewish strata of a site even whereother layers may have been historically or artistically more significantor revealing.111 The task of archaeology was to prove a point about Jewsin the Holy Land and not always, as it probably should have been, toexplore material remains in order to determine the circumstances ofancient cultures and civilizations in a country where they have been somany and so varied.112 At one point the Director of Antiquities even attempted to alter the broad nomenclature of archaeological periods with particular nationalisticones. He requested, for example, that the Iron Age be referred to as the IsraelitePeriod, the Hellenistic as the Hasmonean, theRoman as the Mishnaic, and the Byzantine as the Talmudic periods.113 Although these labels did not endure, even today nomenclature creates contention between scholars. For example, the terms First Temple Period and Second Temple Period are Israeli labels for periods otherwise referred to the Iron Age and the Herodian period.114

During the early years of the state of Israel, all the prime ministers were members of a party thatopposed religion in principle and that considered the “Bible a document of ancient folklore, devoid of any religious meaning. And yet these same Zionists based their claim to the Holy Land on this same Bible, the divineorigin of which they denied.”115 However, for devoutly religious Jews the “Jewish people are neither commanded nor permitted to conquer or rule the Holy Land before the coming of the Messiah.”116

The connection between nationalism and archaeology in Israel was at its height during the 1960’s. The relationship between politicians, generals and archaeology was perhaps too intimate. Among the most powerful figures in archaeology were“Yigael Yadin and Benjamin Mazar, “both of whom also played enormousroles in the development of the nation-state and its institutions, namelythe military and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.”117The Israeli state used archaeology to help in the formation of its foreign image,and its foreign policy through engaging ininvestigations of its past with the tools of science. 118 For example, in 1969 state funeral was staged at Nahal Haver before television cameras when PrimeMinister Begin himself displayed the remains of several bones thathad been found twenty years earlier in a Judaean desert cave and weresaid to be the remains of Bar Kokhba’s heroic soldiers who died inbattle for Israel. At this time the ex general Yigael Yadin, a well-known Israeli archaeologist, was Begin’s deputy prime minister.The coffin containing the controversial bones was draped in flags and carried to a tomb onthe shoulders of four generals.119 Thus, the line between generals and archaeologists was blurred. Another example of the fuzzy relationship occurred when General Moshe Dayan, another “archaeologist “ was once asked in an interview what exactly he was looking for in excavations. His answer was: “The ancient Land of Israel.”120 Even today the director of antiquities, Yehoshua Dorfman is a former general, and he followed in the footsteps of yet another ex general, Amir Drori, who held the post of director for 12 years.121

Archaeology held a central position in the development of Zionism. Yaacov Shavit outlines that “the involvement of archaeology had these goals: 1.To confirm the Biblical historical description particularly from the time of conquering the land by the Israeli ancient tribes. 2. To prove the continuity of the Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel, as well as its size. 3.To emphasize the attitude of the Jewish settlers to the land, as distinguished from the attitude of the non-Jewish settlers. 4.To emphasize the “down-to-earth” side of the Jewish life in Eretz Israel. 5.To give the new Jewish presence [in the land] a new and deep structural historical meaning. 6.To provide the new Jewish presence concrete symbols from the past, [symbols] that can be transformed into symbols of historical legitimization and presence”122

Zionism not only sought its roots in Biblical archaeological artifacts, it was alsoexclusionary as a political-cultural trend that tried “ toheighten the fence encasing Israeli identity”.123 Nationalistic neo-Zionism emerged in the 1970s. Its constituency consistedlargely of the Jewish settlers in the territories occupied since 1967 and their many supporters in theso-called “national camp” throughout the country. It was represented by avariety of extreme right-wing parties, including main parts of the National ReligiousParty (Mafdal) and the Likud Party, as well asby other nationalist parties such as Tehiyah, Tzomet, Moledet, and the Israel AliyahParty, established by immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The neo-Zionist identified “the biblical Land of Israel” with all areas under Israelimilitary control, and considered this more fundamental to Israeli identity than the actual State ofIsrael, (that is the smaller territory identified with the 1948 “green-line” borders). Capturing and preserving the “Biblical Land of Israel” thus was conceived as a larger and superior end, with the state as a means for dominatingit. According to Guy Bajoit, “Palestine had to be made the historical and geographical cradle of the Jewish nation, people, and race, with its own unique culture. In addition,the Zionists also had to affirm that never in the course of history had that specialunity been broken, and that the Jewish people and nation had alwayswanted to return to the ‘Promised Land.’”124

Israel was an immigrant country, settled by people from more than a hundred countries of origin, no wonder thiseffort is reflected an obsessive search for common roots. 125 During the 1950’s and 1960’s, the annual conventions of the Israel Exploration Society attracted over 150,000,00 Bible and geography buffs. The numbers amount to almost one per 1,000 of the total Jewish population at that time.126

In the worldview of leading Zionist figures such as Yigal Yadin and MosheDayan, archaeology aided in cementing Jewishidentity to the new Jewish state. The historical narrative of the Yishuv and the State of Israel was based in largepart on a description of developments seen through the prism of the Labormovement, the dominant current in Zionism and the Israeli state from the1930s to the late 1970s. As Bauman suggests, “the Yishuv-era settlers developed a highly mobilized and institutionalized academic discipline..which employed hiking trips and other outdoor activities to ingrain a sense of attachment to the land. Archaeological sites were turned into settings for the emotional and vivid remembrance of historical events, creating space and logic for internal tourism for local Jewish residents.”127 Zionism’s point of departure was the need of the Jewishpeople for a homeland, a need rooted in the rise of modern post-emancipatorynationalism. The narrative was based on an assumption correlating the Zionist enterprise, manifested in thebelief of biblical ‘facts’ on the archaeological map of Palestine, while immigration,settlement, economic development and the creation of a defense force were encouraged, legitimized and perceived as progress in large measure by thosematerial facts created on the ground.128

During the 1967 Six Day War the Rockefeller Museum (along with the DeadSea Scrolls stored within it) was captured and became the headquarters of the Department of Antiquitiesand Museums. The Department’s exploration of the newly acquiredWest Bank, Golan Heights, and Sinai Peninsula were focal points for a newgeneration of archaeologists, who had been trained by figures such as Yadinand Mazar.129

Israeli control over the West Bank encompassed numerousBiblical and post-Biblical sites, including many which previously had, orhad begun to acquire, religious significance. Not least of these was the WesternWall in Jerusalem. Control over the West Bank also included several millionPalestinians, previously under Jordanian administration.130 The nationalist component of archaeology began to manifest itself primarily in the interest of religiousnationalist groups, who saw control over the Biblical homelands of Judeaand Samaria as the culmination of Israel’s mission and relationship withGod.Their emphasis on the nation’s foundation in religious belief in fact contributed to the fragmentation of collective values based on consensus.131 Strong charismatic and messianic currents, lead to the dominanceof rabbinical authorities, mysticism, the development of a new “sacred geography” andrituals at archaeological sites for example, the tombs of such rediscovered ‘holy men’ as the Bar Khofka fighters mentioned above, as well as those who fell at Masada (Map 1).

The site of Masada is another case in which archaeology fell into the hands of nationalism. Masada, located near the Dead Sea, was the area of refuge for Jewish rebels. Its fall to the Romans marked the end of the Jewishrevolt against imperial control. For the Zionists it embodied the spiritof heroism and love of freedom. Masada was excavated by Yigael Yadin in the 1960’s. Although Masada held mythical connotations for Jews even before the creation of the Israeli state, and was frequented by many youth movements and the Zionist underground, after 1948 Masada became the selected site for thethe swearing-in ceremony for the Israeli Defense Forces.132 Thus, Yadin’s desire to excavate the site already posited his exploration in large political terms.

The excavations at Masada were carried out by the Hebrew University, the Exploration Society, and the Department of Antiquities of Israel. According to Yael Zerubavel, “ Masada was not simply another archaeological dig; it was the fulfillment of a national mission.”133 Before Yadin’s career as an archaeologist, he was the chief of staff of the Israeli Army. He used his Army influence to attain equipment food, water and even workers (including Army volunteers).134 Furthermore, the turnover of volunteers permitted thousands of Israelis to visit the site and connect with the “myth” Yadin was creating. Yadin himself stated that “Even the veterans and the more cynical among us stood frozen, gazing in awe at what had been uncovered; for as we gazed we relived the final and the most tragic moments of the drama of Masada.”135 The writings ancient historian Josephus influenced Yadin even to the point where he tried to locate the families of the zealots mentioned by Josephus in the archaeological record. Yadin was sure that the human remains found on the lowest level of the palace were evidence for the zealots’ final resistance to the Romans: and “On the stairs of the northern palace,” he wrote, “ three (skeletons) were found – those of a man, a woman and a child, probably among the last of those committing suicide, and who went down to set the palace on fire.”136 But it seems that Yadin selected different information for each audience. For example in his English reports he did not mention the skeletons, while in the Hebrew report “he seems to be absolutely certain that the skeletons are those of rebels of the Great Revolt.”137

Continuation in Part II

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