Biblical Archaeology Review 36:1, January/February 2010

First Person: Funders, Politics and Bias

By Hershel Shanks

In a BAR column, David Ilan has recently raised the question of whether archaeologists should accept funding from institutions that have a political agenda.a In his case, he objected to the archaeologists digging in the City of David accepting funds from Elad, whose chief goal, as Ilan puts it, is “the Judaization of East Jerusalem.”

In a subsequent issue, Rachel Hallote recounts the 200-year history of archaeology in the Near East and notes that “funders invariably come with agendas and always have.”b

In short, all funders have agendas—even the institution where David Ilan teaches. Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem trains rabbis in the Reform Jewish tradition, which it propagates. And even funders who claim no bias, except pure archaeology, have agendas. If Ilan’s rule were to be universally applied, there would be little, if any, funding available for archaeology.

Much archaeology in Israel, for example, is funded by evangelical Christians. (And much of the archaeology is performed by Christians with this theological commitment.) But there is general agreement that the evangelical Christians who fund excavations have no say in what happens in the field.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.