Glenn J. Corbett became Editor of Biblical Archaeology Review in March, 2021
Glenn J. Corbett, the new Editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, answers 5 Questions about his training and experience that led him to fill this new role at the Biblical Archaeology Society. From South Carolina to Petra, it’s been an exciting journey!
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What caused you to pursue a career in archaeology?
GLENN J. CORBETT: I was raised with a deep appreciation for the past. I grew up in South Carolina, where historical sites and battlefields are always close at hand, and, as an Army brat, I also had the opportunity to live abroad at an early age, exploring European museums and medieval castles on weekend trips. And like so many of my generation, certainly the Indiana Jones films spurred a deep fascination with the “lost civilizations” of the ancient world. But, more than anything, what attracted me to archaeology was the idea of “discovery”—being able to reveal something, whether an artifact or a new understanding of the past, that had been previously lost, misunderstood, or simply unknown. For me, that is the real joy of archaeology.
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Where was your first dig?
GJC: My first dig experience was in high school, when I participated in an “archaeology weekend” to help excavate an old colonial-era settlement near my hometown in South Carolina. But my first experience in biblical archaeology was at the site of Ashkelon in southern Israel. I joined as a first-year student volunteer, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, helping excavate Late Bronze Age Canaanite tombs. I got hooked immediately. I was fortunate to stay on with the project for several summers and eventually became a square supervisor. Later, during my graduate studies at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, I also excavated at a small Early Bronze Age site in the Jordan Valley and then the famous Bronze Age mound of Tell Atchana (ancient Alalakh) in southern Turkey. My Ph.D. work ultimately took me to Jordan, where I became more involved in archaeological survey and epigraphic studies.
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When did you first join the staff of the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS)?
GJC: I first joined BAS as a part-time assistant editor in 2007. My wife and I had just moved to the Washington, D.C., area, and I was looking for steady work while finishing up my dissertation. Hershel was kind enough to bring me on, and, as one year rolled into another, I gradually carved out a larger role for myself as a full-time associate editor, helping edit the magazine but also working on special projects, including BAS publications and video lectures. I also eventually became web editor, helping develop BAS’s Bible History Daily blog and original online content. So over the course of just a few years, I got a great feel for not only the magazine, but also the broader educational programs and activities of the entire organization.
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You also lived in Amman, Jordan. What brought you there and for how long?
GJC: I lived in Amman for the better part of five years and, earlier in my studies, spent many summers there for research, so Jordan is really like a second home to me. When serving as ACOR (American Center of Research) Associate Director (2014–2017), it was incredibly rewarding to work with so many Jordanian, American, and international archaeologists who were deeply committed to the recovery and preservation of Jordan’s past. This was especially the case at Petra’s Temple of the Winged Lions, where I directed a project that involved the local community in the preservation of an ancient Nabataean temple that had been first excavated decades ago. All too often, archaeologists have neglected host communities in their research projects, so working in Petra was an extraordinary opportunity to help foster, at least in one small corner of Jordan, a more inclusive archaeology.
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Do you have a favorite archaeological site?
GJC: That’s a hard one. Jordan’s beautiful Wadi Rum desert, where I spent so much time recording ancient Arabian inscriptions and rock art for my Ph.D., will always hold a special place in my heart. Rum is renowned for its towering sand-stone mountains and sweeping desert vistas, but even many archaeologists don’t realize just how much history and archaeology can be found tucked away in its cavernous ravines and boulder-filled wadis.
Site-Seeing: Petra’s Temple of the Winged Lions by Glenn J. Corbett
Petra, the 2,000-year-old capital city and trade emporium of the ancient Nabateans nestled amid the rugged mountain landscape of southern Jordan, is a marvel to behold. Visitors to the expansive site meander through narrow passageways and hike up secluded trails to take in the spectacular rock-cut architecture and enigmatic monuments built during the time when the Nabateans controlled the lucrative Arabian incense trade and laid claim to a powerful kingdom stretching from Damascus to the Hejaz.
New Petra Monument Spotted Through Satellites
A mysterious building more than twice the length of a tennis court and six times as wide has been “hiding in plain sight” at Petra in modern Jordan, say researchers Sarah Parcak and Christopher A. Tuttle. In a new study published in the archaeology journal Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (BASOR), Parcak and Tuttle describe the discovery and mapping of the new Petra monument using Google Earth, satellite imagery, ground survey and drones.
Casting New Light on Petra
The famous rock-cut monuments of Petra in Jordan may have been constructed with the movements of the sun in mind. According to a recent study published in the Nexus Network Journal, the Nabataeans took into account how the sunlight would illuminate their major buildings during specific times in the year when erecting their towering capital city.
Cyber-Archaeology at Petra
A recent two-day Cyber-Archaeology expedition at Petra provided new insights on the site’s structural conservation and helped create the next generation of archaeological data presentation.
Re-dating Nabatean Farming at Petra
Researchers examining dam construction and terrace farming techniques at Petra suggest that the Nabateans began employing these techniques around the first century, rather than the earlier Iron Age chronology hypothesized by previous scholars. New examinations using optically stimulated luminescence soil dating tie Petra’s developing irrigation to the region’s annexation by Rome.
Exposing Petra’s North Ridge
The Nabatean city of Petra is one of the world’s most recognizable sites. Modern western fascination with Petra began after Johann Burckhardt rediscovered the site in 1812 and has continued over the past two centuries through extended archaeological activity, a thriving tourism industry and of course, the dramatic climax of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
ACOR’s Photo Archive
The American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR), centered in Amman, Jordan, is digitizing their vast collection of archaeological and cultural heritage photographs and making these images accessible to the public.
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Dear Dr. Corbett you noted the figure of a man with arms uplifted in wadi Hafir which is a symbol in the earliest Hebrew alphabet from sinai. Since this is the route Moses would have taken with the Children of Israel if they crossed the Red Sea at Aqaba and went through the Yutum wadi through the wilderness of Shur I am wondering if it is not Hismaic but rather the much older Hebraic alphabet represented in this inscription. Ref Ociana page 159 of Hismaic inscriptions CH.R310.13 ?
Thanks so much for the comment, Garold, and for exploring the inscriptions I recorded in Wadi Hafir. The figure with arms upraised is not a letter or character within an inscription but rather a drawing that forms part of a larger composition that shows the tracking and hunting of an oryx. While difficult to date, the accompanying inscriptions, some of which refer to the drawing, are all Hismaic/Thamudic, which scholars generally date to around 2,000 years ago. For more on these fascinating inscriptions and drawings, see my earlier BHD post https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/inscriptions/the-autographed-rock-art-of-southern-jordan/
Welcome aboard, Dr. Corbett. You ave the required credentials and the additional advantage of youthful energy to take on this important task. I look forward to you guiding this revered magazine into the future. Being a retired professor of biblical history myself, I encourage you to keep us old folks in mind as you forge the future path. We have a sense of the history of biblical archaeology.
None of the new editor’s experience seemed to indicate deep knowledge of the Bible. Does that indicate a change of emphasis away from “Biblical” archaeology to archaeology more generally? What are the new editor’s creds in the Bible?
I wish you the best success as you take the helm of this treasure.