Biblical Archaeology Review 20:5, September/October 1994

Archaeology’s Dirty Secret

By Hershel Shanks

What may turn out to be a historic meeting took place at Lehigh University last May. Eight senior scholars convened to face what one participant called the profession’s “dirty secret”: Archaeologists love to dig, but hate to write publication reports. As a result, final reports are lacking for a substantial number of archaeological digs, even for some major excavations. And the information is lost forever.

To the scholars at the session, it was not a dirty secret. They all knew about it, only too well.

The meeting on archaeological publication preceded a public three-day colloquium presented by the Philip and Muriel Berman Center for Jewish Studies at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University in cooperation with the Philip and Muriel Berman Center for Biblical Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since the scholars had gathered for the public colloquium, an unpublicized session to address the profession’s “publication problem” was easily arranged for four hours prior to the public conference.

The participants included Ephraim Stern, Amihai Mazar and Amnon Ben-Tor, all of Hebrew University; Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University; William G. Dever of the University of Arizona; Joe D. Seger of the Cobb Institute of Archaeology, Mississippi State University; and Gus Van Beek of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The moderator was Philip J. King of Boston College. In addition to this distinguished group of senior archaeologist/scholars, I was invited to participate as editor of BAR.

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