Biblical Archaeology Review 28:3, May/June 2002

After Excavation

What happens when the archaeologists leave?

By Hershel Shanks

You’re an archaeologist. You’ve carefully excavated a site and written an exemplary final report. Your obligation to history has been met.

But what about the site? What happens after you leave? The answer seems obvious: It should be preserved.

Of course, when it comes to Israel, the government takes care of its big tourist sites—like Megiddo and Beth-Shean. But what about the orphans, the lesser-known sites?

In 1979, the Biblical Archaeology Society decided to do something about the neglect of archaeological sites by establishing the Archaeological Preservation Fund. Our intentions were good: to restore past archaeological sites, making them clean, attractive and accessible to visitors—and thus do our bit to preserve the heritage of Biblical archaeology for future generations (and in the process perhaps set an example).

Were we naive? Did we make a mistake? Was it wasted money?

When I traveled to Israel recently, I visited the first site to benefit from our good intentions 23 years ago—a then recently excavated site in central Israel called Izbet Sartah. I was in for a disappointment.

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