Biblical Archaeology Review 35:2, March/April 2009

Archaeological Views: Who Pays for Excavations?

Religious and Political Agendas in the Funding of “Biblical” Archaeology

By Rachel Hallote

In a recent issue of this column, David Ilan objects to the City of David excavations because Elad, a foundation that supports the excavations, has a religious and political agenda.a

But this is nothing new in the history of archaeology. Fieldwork is expensive; every field archaeologist is dependent on finding a source of funding, and funders invariably come with agendas—and always have.

It is unfair to castigate the City of David excavators for accepting the sponsorship of the Elad Foundation without being clear about the larger context. Hershel Shanks has already pointed out in his preface to Ilan’s column that Hebrew Union College (HUC), whose center for archaeology Ilan directs, and which supports the Tel Dan excavations, is itself a biased religious institution: the ordaining body of the American Reform Judaism movement.

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