Biblical Archaeology Review 41:6, November/December 2015

First Person: Archaeology in Israel and in Countries to the East

By Hershel Shanks

My critics will say I often write about things I know nothing about. But this “First Person” is about something I admit I know nothing about: I want to compare archaeology in Israel with archaeology elsewhere in the Near East, more specifically in the swath of Syria and Iraq.

We observed our 40th anniversary in the March/April issue with an interview with Eric and Carol Meyers about developments in our field during the past 40 years. I just reviewed the text of a volume we are producing called 40 Futures, which will be available in November 2015. It is a collection of 40 contributions by 40 leading scholars about likely developments in various subfields of archaeology in the next 40 years—from excavation techniques, to paleography, botany, pottery, etc. These future developments can be summarized as more scientific, more subfields, more computers (even in the field), more detailed studies. Whether all this is good is still a question, but it seems inevitable. I remember Bill Dever, one of last generation’s leading archaeologists, telling me (although it is not original with him): “We are learning more and more about less and less until we will know everything about nothing.”

In short, Israel is about as exciting a place for archaeology as there is in the world—with excavations of large major tells to small farming installations, sites that bring thousands of volunteers to the country, hundreds of specialists from around the world, as well as hundreds of archaeologists and specialists from a major governmental agency (the Israel Antiquities Authority).

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