Biblical Archaeology Review 10:3, May/June 1984

Benjamin Mazar Reminisces

Excavating 50 years ago took courage but little money

By Bill Clark

“It was different then,” the archaeologist said. “Today there are institutes and technicians, engineers, directors and subdirectors!”

“Back then, we had nothing,” he said. “But it was a wonderful period. A time of life. A time of courage; no, more than courage. There was a greatness to it all. Beth She’arim was an example of pure idealism.”

Professor Benjamin Mazar has seen much since his initial probings around the ruins of Beth She’arim in 1936. The first archaeological excavation permit issued by the reborn State of Israel was in his name, allowing him to begin research at Tell Qasile in 1949. He has led important digs at Ein Gedi and at the edge of the Temple precincts in Jerusalem. He has served as president of Hebrew University and of the Israel Exploration Society. He has been chairman of the Archaeological Board of Israel and is a fellow of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Just last summer he was elected president of the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament. During a career that has spanned almost half a century, he has been awarded honors without number.

Now 77, Professor Mazar recently reminisced about Biblical archaeology in the pioneering days of the 1930s and ’40s. He also reflected on the growth and current direction of the discipline.

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