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.