Lip Service is better than no service

Courtesy: UNESCO


 Well at least the sentiment is nice.     


A Truly Unique Talent

Dr. Eilat Mazar is at it again– running to the press before properly submitting her finds to serious archaeological scrutiny. 

Now it is Solomon’s Wall.  Before it was David’s Palace.  Also the Tsinnor. Also Nehemiah’s Wall.  Also the Seal of Temech.  None of them have stood the test of time– except to those who desperately want to believe…

What’s next?  Bathsheba’s bathtub?  The Queen of Sheba’s guestroom? 

This is not careful, systematic archaeology, yielding a more sophisticated understanding of Iron Age Jerusalem.  It is secular shrine building and idolatrous historical idol worship– consciously or unwittingly serving contemporary religious and political agendas and helping to sabotage any hope of future compromise in Jerusalem. 

Ironic that this news appeared on the same day that the Prime Minister’s new Heritage Plan (see last post) sparked violence. 

Stay tuned for more updates…

Update #1:  In fact here is one factual clarification– the first of many, I expect– this one from Todd Bolen’s blog.

Update #2: In his hyperbolic blog on this discovery, Commentary editor Jonathan Tobin demonstrates how good he is at summarizing hyperbolic archaeological press releases– and how little he actually knows about archaeology.

Update #3Leen Ritmeyer, who can hardly be accused of minimalism, shares his thoughts and experience regarding the discovery of the new  “Solomonic” wall.  Bottom line:  probably late 8th century BCE, a full two centuries after the time of Solomon.

Another Useless Heritage Provocation

Yes, I know that this was a short-term concession by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the far-right and to religious interests within Israel.

Yes I know that his “Heritage List” is described so vaguely that it may never actually have any effect on the facts on the ground.  But it is another dangerous and needless provocation that has everything to do with continued occupation and nothing to do with the enhanced appreciation of heritage at all.

Heritage recognition cannot be imposed on others– or on one’s own disenchanted generations– with money for masonry repairs and hiking trails.

Traditional Site of the Tombs of the Patriarchs, Hebron

Clashes erupt over West Bank religious shrines

February 22, 2010 — Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
Jerusalem (CNN) — Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers broke out Monday, a day after Israel announced it would include two West Bank religious shrines as part of a larger list of 150 Zionist heritage sites.

About 100 protesters were throwing stones and burning tires in the West Bank city of Hebron, the Israeli military said. Palestinian eyewitnesses reported that several protesters had been injured by tear gas and rubber bullets.

The clashes come in the wake of a special Sunday Cabinet meeting held at one of the “national heritage” sites where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined a plan to invest more than $100 million on national heritage infrastructure.

“People must be familiar with their homeland and its cultural and historical vistas,” he said. “This is what we will instill in this and coming generations, to the glory — if I may say — of the Jewish people.”

Included in the list of sites are Rachel’s Tomb in Palestinian city of Bethlehem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the city of Hebron…

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For more info on the preliminary details of the plan and its rationale, click here.

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Come on, Israel, evolve!  Try something new!

Wouldn’t it be interesting if the discussion centered on how significant sites of Jewish/Biblical heritage could be legally protected on Palestinian land?  And vice versa?

Occupation and implicit claims of sovereignty just don’t work, especially if the heritage sites in question become isolated islands in the midst of a population that doesn’t care– on both sides!

The PUSH Project tried it and was destroyed by the overwhelming pressures of hateful separatism.  But it tried…

“Minarets Have Nothing To Do With Germany”

In what is becoming a familiar storyline for cultural heritage conflicts in the New Europe, lines are being drawn between what is considered “authentic” heritage and what considered an unsightly intrusion being brought into the country by THEM.       

As noted in a Feb. 11 story by David Charter in the London Times Online:      

At the center of the storm


“An unassuming former cinema opposite a giant steelworks on the banks of the Saar river is at the centre of a stand-off over plans for a minaret to mark its new role as a mosque. The row highlights concerns about the spread of Islam in Germany’s traditionally conservative rust belt.      

“In a confrontation reminiscent of the debate in Switzerland, which led to a national referendum verdict banning new minarets, the 40,000-strong town of Völklingen has become divided over plans by the Selimiye mosque for three domes and an 8m (26ft) spire.      

“It would be the first minaret in Saarland, which has fallen on hard times since the heyday of steel production in the 1960s and 1970s, leaving many of the Turks who arrived to work in the smelters unemployed…      

“We are being quietly infiltrated by the Turks,” said one resident at a meeting called last month, according to Die Tageszeitung. The audience of 250 was asked to fill in forms, with one stating: “Minarets have nothing to do with Germany.”      

(The recent, bitter debate about the construction of a minaret in the German town of Völklingen has the added fillip of its also being a UNESCO World Heritage Site  that, in fact, commemorates the technology of steel production but, more subtly and silently, symbolizes the death of the town’s main industry by turning it into a heritage attraction.)      

The Times story continues:      

“The mosque is in Wehrden, the district that was home to many steelworkers when the plant employed 17,000 men. The six furnaces across the river from the mosque fell silent in 1986 and are now a Unesco World Heritage site, with a sign that says: “The Völklinger Hütte, one of the most exciting places in the world. Today it is equal to the Cheops Pyramid in Egypt, the Great Wall of China and the Acropolis at Athens.”      

Adnan Atakli, the head of the town’s Turkish community association, said: “This is our democratic right, to have our places of worship just like there are churches. Churches have a tower. I live here, we have a mosque and a mosque should have a minaret.” He said that it would be decorative only.      

“The Saarbrücker Zeitung, the local newspaper, carried an article calling for it not to be built: “It symbolises Islam’s quest for power and is nothing less than a provocation.”      

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When will cultural heritage stop obsessing only about the past and about purity and become a creative element in evolving community identity?

The Graveyard of Broken Dreams

Let’s see…  Here’s my tentative list of the top 10 recent dubious attempts to resurrect the objective, archaeological credibility of biblical history. 

(I have omitted the outlandish theories of Scientific Creationism, the “discovery” of Noah’s Ark, and the Shroud of Turin, which are in a class by themselves). 

The following are some that have actually been reported in the mainstream media and/or the scholarly literature…

1.  The Khirbet Qeiyafa Inscription

2. The “Palace of David”

3.  The “James Brother of Jesus” Ossuary

4.  The Jehoash “Inscription”

5. “The Lost Tomb of Jesus”

6.  “Joshua’s Altar”

7.  The Khirbet en-Nahash Excavations

8.  The Tel Zayit Inscription

9. Bill Dever’s public appearances

10.  Larry Stager’s career

And a Lifetime Achievement Award to The Biblical Archaeology Review

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 Additional nominations and comments will be accepted with great interest!

Moonbeams and Cultural Heritage Management (Update)

Thanks to Professor Margie Purser of Sonoma State University for sending along an article that provides some welcome context for the recent listing of artifacts at Tranquility Base on the Moon as a California State Historical Resource.  It apparently began as a worthwhile academic exercise, not just a case of bureaucratic megalomania:

Archeologist Helps Get Moon Junk on Historical Resources List

The Historical Resources Commission for the state of California recently listed 106 items left on the moon from the landing of Apollo 11 on the Historical Resources List. Archaeologist Lisa Westwood had worked alone on the project before encountering three others with a similar goal: Beth O’Leary, Department of Anthropology, New Mexico State University; Ralph Gibson, Placer County Museums; and John Versluis, Texas Heritage Museum. “Together, we had more than 40 years invested in getting the objects on a historical resource list. I think it’s interesting that that’s the length of time since the Apollo mission,” said Westwood.

Four years ago, in Westwood’s class Society, Time, Archaeology, she talked about resources management and what qualifies for protection. She used the artifacts left on the moon and Tranquility Base as an example of a site that was not old, but was worthy of some protection. It is a case study of a site that doesn’t fit well with existing law and protocol.

“After open discussions with students, it occurred to me, has anyone tried to get this listed? I contacted NASA; they’ve been very nice and supportive. The wall I hit with NASA is that any one country as part of an international treaty can’t claim the lunar surface. The way it stands right now, there is no protection for these objects or the site.”  Read More…

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Interesting that NASA has “lost” some of the original documentation– and I do recognize that there is an interesting heritage management exercise here. 

But the heritage of Apollo 11 is not ONLY on the moon.  Any potential World Heritage Nomination (to be a realistic project– even as a realistic academic project) would have to consider a transboundary serial nomination linking a number of places, things, and people in a number of countries (“states-parties”) around the world that contributed in some way to the moon landing or perhaps to the wider 1950s-1960s pioneering exploration of space.

For an example of this kind of “scientific achievement” transboundary serial World Heritage Site, see the Struve Geodetic Arc, inscribed in 2005.  This would eliminate the “sovereignty” problem– and in fact such initiatives have already been discussed.

It would be a fantastic subject for collaboration between all the world’s space agencies…