Biblical Archaeology Review 38:1, January/February 2012

Archaeological Views: Digging a Hole and Telling a Tale

By Fredric R. Brandfon

In the July/August 2011 issue of BAR, Hershel Shanks’s First Person dealt with Ronny Reich’s new book, Excavating the City of David.a In Reich’s book he commented on Eilat Mazar’s excavations, also in the City of David, where she claims to have found King David’s palace.b Reich objected to Mazar predicting that she would find David’s palace and then conducting an excavation in which she claimed to have located exactly what she set out to find.

The controversy between Reich and Mazar, while characterized by Shanks as one over scientific method, may be characterized from another point of view. When I excavated with the late archaeologist and Biblical scholar Anson Rainey at Tel Beer Sheva, he used to say, “Archaeology is the science of digging a hole and the art of telling a tale.” I think the argument between Reich and Mazar is more about art than science.

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