Biblical Archaeology Review 32:3, May/June 2006

First Person: Archaeology as Peep Show

Promptly releasing images of archaeological finds would benefit scholars, scholarship and the public. Try it.

By Hershel Shanks

I’ve been fighting it for years: archaeology as peep show. As in, “Wanna see a dirty picture?”

I thought it might be a thing of the past in this Internet age, but it’s as alive as ever: “Come to the Annual Meeting and we’ll show it to you. Yessiree. Step right up and have a look. Go back home and tell your friends and colleagues, you’ve seen it, the whole thing.”

I’m not talking about pornographic pictures, but recently excavated inscriptions of some importance. If you go to the Annual Meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) or the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), the excavators will get up and proudly display their finds in full color for all in attendance—in somewhat the same way as members of the exclusive Dead Sea Scroll publication team used to show an unpublished Dead Sea Scroll fragment to their astonished, obsequious and grateful colleagues in the 1980s when I first started complaining about it.a

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