BAR Accused of Publishing “Defamatory” Ad

The ad, as it appeared in the September/October 2013 issue of BAR.

A BAR advertisement has been labeled “defamatory” by 16 faculty members of Tel Aviv University’s Institute of Archaeology.

The ad, placed in repeated issues of BAR, features a picture taken at a lecture given by Tel Aviv University professor Yuval Goren reporting on his excavation at Tel Socoh, about 29 miles southeast of Tel Aviv. In the picture, Professor Goren stands beside a screen showing a mechanical excavator, often referred to as a backhoe or bulldozer, in operation at the site.

In the latest version of the ad, the picture is headed: “Cater-Pillaging—The Stratigraphy of Tel Socoh,” a pun on the name of the Caterpillar company that manufactures bulldozers, backhoes and similar equipment, and characterizes Professor Goren’s excavation as pillaging.

The advertisement in BAR was paid for by Robert Deutsch, a leading Israeli antiquities dealer, a Haifa University lecturer who earned his PhD at Tel Aviv University, a former member of the staff of Tel Aviv University’s excavation at Megiddo, a sometime BAR author and a recently acquitted defendant in the famous forgery trial in Jerusalem clearing him of all charges.

The use of mechanical equipment in a professional archaeological excavation is usually considered a cardinal sin, although it is permitted in some circumstances, such as the clearing of topsoil, not involving actual archaeological excavation.

Professor Goren maintains in a statement that his use of a backhoe occurred not on the tell at Tel Socoh, but “in a valley south to it,” where he had found “waste remains of a ceramic workshop.” His first attack on this area (Area B) was to measure standard 5x 5 meter squares, one of which can be seen in the picture, followed by careful excavation by hand. After a week of digging and finding nothing, Goren decided to finish the job with “a [mechanical] digger to make sure that no archaeological remains existed at what was apparently virgin soil.”

The statement by Tel Aviv University archaeologists states that “There was no use of a mechanical excavator on Tel Socoh. The slide shown in the ad illustrates work carried out in a wadi (valley) near the mound, as a sequel to a systematic manual excavation from the surface. . . This is a common method in archaeology.”

“Is it in the wadi?” Deutsch responds. “Or is it on the slope of the tell,” where it is clear from the picture that the excavation was begun in a standard five-meter square? Deutsch adds that if, as Goren claims, it is so common to use these mechanical diggers, why is it that in 20 years at Megiddo, the university’s major excavation where he worked, he never saw a bulldozer, “not on the tell and not on the lower terraces.”

Perhaps some of our readers who are better informed on archaeological practice will weigh in on whether bulldozers are justified—or common—in the circumstances described at Tel Socoh.

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  1. charles says

    a couple of buttheads butting heads. stubborness, properly applied, can be a good thing, but this is just childish behaviour from 2, supposedly, highly educated “adults”

  2. Allen says

    Robert Deutsch makes some valid points, however this is is probably an attempt to deflect his association with the fraud case. Having been a suspect, even though he was acquitted, his reputation has been tarnished. He must find a way to redeem himself in the archaeological and antiquities communities. Unless he was at the site when the pictures were taken, he can have no definitive proof of pillaging.

    That being said, I hate seeing heavy equipment on site. the weight and vibrations that the transmit into the soil can alter the strata tables and even crush and fragment otherwise intact artifacts. If topsoil needs removal use a small blade like a Bobcat. However, I would never allow a backhoe or shovel on a site of mine. Mechanized deep digging can totally destroy a soils timetable and destroy small artifact.

  3. VIRGINIA F MAYO says

    Grow up boys.

  4. VIRGINIA F MAYO says

    Quit fighting boys, grow up.

  5. Nicole says

    More on this issue: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/bulldozer-archaeology/

  6. Ned says

    This is a controversy? Dear God, tell me adult archaeologist are more mature than this.

  7. darlene says

    There are times and places heavy equipment can be used I trust the archaeologists to know the difference . They are the first to know not to destroy or ruin the things they are trying to save

  8. Warren says

    I agree with the previous posts. They need to get over themselves.

  9. Rick says

    After all the articles about how wonderful running apparently unproductive earth through water sieves, this backhoe seems like the next step in micro archeology. Send a scoop to Jerusalem to be washed and screened and then see if there is any reason to go on with that piece of earth.
    Knowing how tiny details can make or break a finding, I have no doubt the leaned archeologist was certain he was merely double checking an already investigated dead spot. Perhaps he should be praised for his extra look rather than scathed for making the best use of a short digging season.

  10. Paul says

    Using backhoes would not be a cardinal sin in cave archaeology. They can be useful in opening and clearing away some of the debri from the cave opening. Especially if the cave opening is the same height of an interstate overpass.

  11. Mike says

    After working with academics for 26 years, I can tell you this kind of hubris is typical.

  12. joe says

    Another reason, if ever needed, why serious scholars committed to the integrity of the profession refuse to publish, donate or read BAR.

  13. Harold says

    Mechanical digging at sites does not appear to be unusual. In Britain, there is a very popular reality television program called Time Team. The program has been running for about 20 years. The challenge is for the team to determine the nature and extent of an archaeological site over a three day period. Each program shows a dig at a potential archaeological site. The digs are conducted by some of Britain’s top archaeologists. The standard practice is to initially conduct Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and/or geo-physical surveying and remote sensing to discover and map archaeological features. Next, mechanical diggers are often brought in to carefully remove the top soil. Once artefacts or remains of walls start to appear, the hand digging begins. They have excavated: neolithic, iron and bronze age remains; Roman villas with mosaics; Saxon, Viking and Norman structures as well as more recent buildings. If you have not seen the program I highly recommend it.

  14. stephen says

    Since I’m not an archeologist, far be it from me to offer an opinion about the use of large mechanical equipment on a site. However, after Yuval Goren gave his best effort to assassinate the reputation of Mr. Deutsch, it should not come as a shock to anyone that Mr. Deutsch should want to return the favor.

  15. Robert says

    Dear Stephen

    It is not personal, it is strictly business.

    Robert Deutsch, Ph.D.

  16. Natural says

    I’ve been wondering about this ad. I though it was just another thing between HS and Goren until I saw in the last issue (very back pages) that it was actually a paid advertisement. BAR is often sprinkled with colorful ads and bickering. Nothing to see here. Move on.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. BAR Accused of Publishing ‘Defamatory’ Ad | Fr Stephen Smuts linked to this post on August 23, 2013

    [...] Via The Biblical Archaeology Society: [...]

  2. BAR Accused of Publishing ‘Defamatory’ Ad | Bible Backgrounds and Archaeology linked to this post on August 23, 2013

    [...] Via The Biblical Archaeology Society: [...]

  3. One Big Balagan: Robert Deutsch, Simcha Jacobovici, and their Campaign of Misinformation against Prof. Yuval Goren | XKV8R: The Official Blog of Dr. Robert R. Cargill linked to this post on August 26, 2013

    [...] week, BAR confirmed that Robert Deutsch did indeed purchase and place the ad in a statement, which reads in part: [...]

  4. Livius Nieuwsbrief / September | Mainzer Beobachter linked to this post on September 2, 2013

    [...] Degene die de vervalsing aantoonde was Yuval Goren. Niet voor het eerst probeert het tijdschrift Biblical Archaeological Review deze Israëlische archeoloog, die bewees dat ook andere door BAR als echt beschouwde voorwerpen vervalsingen waren, in diskrediet te brengen. [...]

  5. Aantekeningen bij de Bijbel · Livius Nieuwsbrief / September linked to this post on September 30, 2013

    [...] Degene die de vervalsing aantoonde was Yuval Goren. Niet voor het eerst probeert het tijdschrift Biblical Archaeological Review deze Israëlische archeoloog, die bewees dat ook andere door BAR als echt beschouwde voorwerpen vervalsingen waren, in diskrediet te brengen. [...]

  6. Oh, Simcha... :-) | The Aramaic New Testament linked to this post on April 3, 2014

    […] UPDATE Aug 23: Apparently Robert Deutsch who paid for the original attack ad over on Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) also th… […]


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