About Me

I was born in Boston in 1950 and studied Religion at Wesleyan University and Archaeology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and I’ve spent most of my career writing and thinking about the politics and contemporary meanings of the past. After completing a series of books about the history and politics of archaeology in the Middle East, I teamed up with my good friend and colleague Israel Finkelstein to see what we could accomplish in the re-construction of modern views of biblical history.  The result was The Bible Unearthed (2001) which got a lot of attention, but I’m not sure it changed many minds– particularly minds that are hardwired to believe that THEY are the authentic heirs of the biblical tradition.

Anyway, I spent 2000-2007 in Belgium, working at the Ename Center for Public Archaeology and Heritage Presentation on heritage projects in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, and gradually came to realize just how many minds are hardwired to believe that they are the authentic heirs of something.  And yet those claims for authenticity have generally been used as tools to get or maintain power, money, or just crude dominance.  The Past has got to be useful for something more positive and life affirming than that.  I spent 2008-2012 teaching at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and helped establish their Center for Heritage and Society.

I am one of the managing partners of Coherit Associates, an international sustainable heritage consultancy.  I also serve as the president of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Interpretation and Presentation.

In my work and travels I come across many paradoxes of the quest for cultural authenticity and will try to record just a few of them here.

–Neil Silberman

6 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Scratching my head about your initial reaction to E. Mazar’s new anouncements.

    How can anyone judge her claims without examining them in situ? Or reading an official publication?

    Your initial comment – in some professor’s website – does not sound serious. It is rather like a reaction of someone who had made up his mind, regardless what future discoveries may be.

    • Keep scratching. This is not an isolated incident. Eilat Mazar has done this before. It does have a context you know. I expressed my skepticism, not my final judgement, about a scholar who has time and again run to the press before proper publication– and who has made up her mind quite openly about the historicity of 1 Kings. Her approach, however quaint (“Bible in one hand, spade in the other”), displays a naive and quite discredited scholarly vision of BOTH the Bible and the spade. Where have you been for the last 25 years?

  2. Pingback: The Bible Unearthed-An Extended Review, Part 1 | Against Jebel al-Lawz

  3. Having read some of the work published on the dead sea scrolls 20 years ago and given up in inconclusive frustration I picked up your book in a second hand book store here in South Africa and have enjoyed its all round approach to what had happened in the Scroll drama up till 1994. Remember we were just emerging from the stranglehold of Apartheid and were putting a new face on our lives and politics and were distracted from the news around the scrolls. Now 20 yrs on what has happened with regards new publications and the feelings that info is being suppressed? Your thoughts!

    • Nothing much new, scholarly speaking. But all the conspiracy and prophecy theories are all still very much alive outside academia. The “Dead Sea Scrolls” is about equal to Nostradamus or the Maya calendar in the public consciousness.

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