Biblical Archaeology Review 25:2, March/April 1999

Queries & Comments

There Are Ladies Present

Regarding the many shameless quips published in Queries & Comments, such as “BARboy,” a play on Playboy (Queries & Comments, BAR 24:06), I kindly remind you that there are women in your audience who have not forgotten how to blush.

Megan Mong Kingwood, West Virginia

Does Absence of Evidence Equal Evidence of Absence?

Your articles on the status of tenth-century Jerusalem seem to have aroused a flurry of letters opposed to the position of Margreet Steiner. As I am no archaeologist, I won’t presume to weigh in on the merits of this case. But I was struck by Professor Kenneth Mull’s announcement (Queries & Comments, BAR 24:06) that it is a “basic principle” of archaeological method that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” This is surely not—at least I hope it’s not—a basic principle, because it’s clearly false. Whether or not the absence of evidence for X is (good) evidence for the absence of X depends, in part, on whether there ought to be evidence for the presence of X. And that, in turn, depends upon whether there are good explanations for the absence of evidence, even if X was present.

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