Biblical Archaeology Review 30:5, September/October 2004

Strata: Archaeologist vs. Archaeologist

Ben-Dov Wins Token Victory

By Lionel Kestenbaum

An Israeli court has rendered a split decision in one of the most bitter—and petty—disputes between archaeologists in recent years.

Judge Yaffa Hecht, deputy chief judge of the Jerusalem District Court, has ruled that Hebrew University archaeologist Eilat Mazar violated archaeologist Meir Ben-Dov’s copyright by publishing two reconstruction drawings of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The drawings were views of the Temple Mount from the southeast and from the southwest in Herodian times. At the same time, the court denied Ben-Dov’s claim that Mazar violated his copyright in two other drawings (of domes in a passageway leading to the Temple Mount), which, like the infringing items, Mazar printed in her popular book, Complete Guide to Temple Mount Excavations, published in 2000.

Meir Ben-Dov served as field director of the well-known excavations at the foot of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem under the overall direction of Benjamin Mazar, a highly regarded Biblical scholar and former president of Hebrew University. For nearly ten years (between 1968 and 1977) the area was excavated not just in the summer, but during most of the year, yielding highly significant information about the history of Jerusalem from the Biblical period forward. Ben-Dov was then given responsibility for restoration and conservation over a period of years. In the end, however, the field director and the director had an acrimonious falling out.

When Benjamin Mazar died in 1995, the results of the excavation had not been published in the customary final report. Indeed, only very limited preliminary reports had been written by Benjamin Mazar. Ben-Dov has written only popular books, but no scientific reports. The fight over access to the excavation papers and artifactual remains continues.

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