Biblical Archaeology Review 34:2, March/April 2008

First Person: In Defense of Eilat Mazar

By Hershel Shanks

Eilat Mazar is a leading Jerusalem archaeologist. She comes by it rightly. She is the granddaughter of Benjamin Mazar, who was himself a leading archaeologist as well as president of The Hebrew University and who, for ten years after 1967, led an enormous excavation south of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Benjamin Mazar died in 1995, and a committee of scholars was assembled to choose someone to complete the unfinished excavation report left by the elder Mazar. The committee chose Eilat Mazar, who is also affiliated with The Hebrew University.1 While she has dug at sites outside Jerusalem, her passion remains the archaeology of the Holy City.

No one would question her professional competence as an archaeologist. Her chief sin, however, is that she is interested in what archaeology can tell us about the Bible. But that is not the worst of it. She is willing to make suggestions that are plausible, even likely, but are nonetheless not 100 percent certain. (Few archaeological conclusions are.)

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