Archaeology Odyssey 8:3, May/June 2005

Editors’ Page: Who Owns Archaeology?

Certainly not the “Professional Elite”

By Jack Meinhardt

Archaeology Odyssey

In a letter to the editor in this issue, the cultural critic Camille Paglia complains that sometimes archaeologists seem to think they own the past. Is there a “professional elite,” she wonders, that alone has the privilege of speaking publicly about “the history of humanity”?

Hershel Shanks, the editor of Archaeology Odyssey’s sister magazine, Biblical Archaeology Review (and Editor-at-Large of Archaeology Odyssey), is now under assault from the “professional elite.” In a recent edition of The Washington Post, the deputy director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Uzi Dahari, called Shanks “totally crazy” and “pathetic.” His crime? That he dared to publish an article in Biblical Archaeology Review on the James Ossuary (November/December 2002), a 2,000-year-old limestone bone box inscribed in Aramaic “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” The article was written by one of the world’s leading experts in ancient Semitic script, André Lemaire of Paris’s Sorbonne University, and the bone box had been tested for authenticity by the leading laboratory in Israel. The real problem for the “professional elite” is that the bone box caught them by surprise—and it hurts to be sucker-punched by a “popular” magazine.

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