'The Interpretation and Excavation of Iron Age Israel: A Brief Discussion of the Impacts and Effects of the Biblical Narrative on Modern Archaeological Practice,' Ancient World Seminar

Theatre C, Old Arts Building, Parkville Campus

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Gijs Tol


Conor Trouw

For several decades, the issue of interpretation has been at the forefront of archaeological discourse, with many academics now accepting that material evidence cannot be seen as passively awaiting classification, but rather having an agency and voice all its own. From this perspective, the 19th century notion of grand campaigns undertaken to uncover proof of mythical kings and conquests has been replaced by a need to view these legends within the context of a past reality, with modern excavations helping scholars better understand contemporary written sources rather than the other way around. Unfortunately, this is not a view that is universally applied, particularly when the written sources are religious in nature. The focus of this lecture will be a discussion of one such instance, that being Iron Age archaeology in Israel, an area of research that continues to cause debate amongst academics worldwide. Essentially, by examining two opposing methodological approaches, one secular, the other non-secular, it is the aim of this talk to highlight the need for archaeologists to approach material evidence with an open mind, and accept that they inevitably apply prejudices to any conclusions they may reach. In addition, this lecture will also discuss why Biblical Archaeology as a field of research has regained momentum in recent years, the effects such an approach has upon public perceptions of Israeli archaeology, and the impact such an approach has had upon research within the wider Levantine region.