Biblical Archaeology Review 38:2, March/April 2012

Strata: Archaeologists Offer Public a Glimpse Behind the Curtain

Since the very early years of BAR, we have bemoaned the fact that most archaeologists and Biblical scholars are reluctant to release the photos and finds from their work until the full results have been published in a scholarly volume or journal.a This often leaves the public (including BAR readers) in the dark for years—or even decades, as in the case of the Dead Sea Scrolls—about the important discoveries from excavations and manuscripts, as we wait for publications that sometimes never come.

Thankfully there are exceptions to this rule. And as we have said in BAR, sharing finds and photos does not lessen the impact of the final publication of these excavations but in fact builds up interest and anticipation for it. And who knows, a layperson may be able to offer an insight that the scholar hadn’t thought of.

Recently, two archaeologists working in Jerusalem’s City of David followed this advice. When Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron came upon three large V-shaped carvings on a floor during their excavations near the Gihon Spring, they were stumped and, as Shukron admitted, couldn’t begin to guess their function. So, rather than remaining secretive and aloof about the puzzling discovery, the archaeologists and the City of David Foundation issued a press release with a rare request for help in identifying the mysterious carvings.

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