Biblical Archaeology Review 23:6, November/December 1997
Battle Over Bones


Archaeologists are losing ground in an increasingly violent struggle with ultra-Orthodox Jews over the excavation of bones in Israel. Willing to use any means at their disposal, the ultra-Orthodox have recently turned to death threats and political pressure to stop digs. Their tactics, archaeologists claim, are already limiting our knowledge of ancient man and threaten to jeopardize the future of archaeology in Israel. Reporting from the front line, Israeli journalist Dina Shiloh offers an overview of the controversy in “Fierce Protest Over Bones Threatens to Halt Archaeology in Israel.” A profile of one man who has fallen victim to the ultra-Orthodox’s campaign—Israel’s leading authority on ancient bones—appears in “Fired: Bone Expert Takes the Fall.”

While ultra-Orthodox Jews appeal to the authority of Jewish law, which they claim prohibits the excavation of bones, archaeologist Gabriel Barkay suggests in “Politics—Not Religious Law—Rules Ultra-Orthodox Decisions,” that a less noble motivation lies behind their recent attacks.

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