Biblical Archaeology Review 35:4, July/August September/October 2009
Issue 200

How BAR Was Born

A reason to return to Jerusalem

By Hershel Shanks

In 1972 Hershel Shanks took a sabbatical from his legal practice in Washington, D.C. He and his family went to Jerusalem for a year. Once there, the Shanks family became part of a network of friends and colleagues who comprised some of the archaeological luminaries in the Holy Land at the time. That year proved to be the catalyst for the creation of the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) and its flagship publication, Biblical Archaeology Review. Hershel reflects below on the birth, evolution and legacy of BAR.

I spent 1972–1973 with my wife and two daughters living in Israel. Julia (or Yael, as she was called for that year) was three and Elizabeth (or Elisheva) was six. Every Shabbat my wife Judith (Yehudit), the kids and I would take a tiyyul, or outing, to explore an archaeological site.

By the time we got around to exploring Hazor, the whole family was expert in picking up sherds, the ever-present fragments of pottery at archaeological sites, and deciding whether it was a “diagnostic” sherd—a rim, base or handle—or just a plain body sherd. Before we ascended the tell, we visited the little Hazor museum at the nearby kibbutz. The museum displayed a case of these diagnostic sherds, including handles that had been impressed with seals. Pointing to one of those handles, I told the kids, “See? That’s the kind of thing we want.”

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