Biblical Archaeology Review 22:5, September/October 1996

First Person: Taking on Tough Issues

BAR’s beat expands

By Suzanne F. Singer

Archaeology’s stock-in-trade is life millennia ago. While ancient events, places, artifacts and peoples will continue to fill most of the pages of BAR, you’re going to see us speaking out even more than in the past when tough current issues need to be confronted. Whether it is the illegal antiquities trade or thoughtless destruction of antiquities by developers, thieves or political extremists, or that other form of useless destruction, the failure to publish the results of excavations, we will be bringing you the state of the debates and, we hope, our own perspective on how things can be made better.

A case in point is Hershel Shanks’s challenge in this issue to the ultra-Orthodox in Israel, who seek authority to stop archaeological digs whenever human remains are found. Since it can never be known where and when bones may turn up, all archaeology is in jeopardy. This extreme possibility follows from a reasonable premise based in Jewish law and shared by all people, whether ultra-Orthodox or secular, that human remains should be treated with respect, no matter what their antiquity.

Shanks finds precedent in Jewish law to argue that not only is it extreme to oppose all archaeology but, in fact, there are compelling reasons to insist that bones be moved from their find spots in order to protect them from vandalism, the ultimate desecration.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.