Publishing Israel Archaeology Digs

The public meets the wonderful finds from Tel Dan

Publishing Israel Archaeology Digs

A female warrior stands ready to strike. This bronze figurine is pictured in the recently published volume of the Tel Dan excavation final reports. Many archaeology digs are slow to publish the results of their excavations—unfortunately Tel Dan has not been the only case in Israel archaeology—but some are now producing wonderful volumes of their finds.

It has been called the “dirty secret” of Israel archaeology: Digs go on for season after season of excavation without publishing final reports of the results of their work. Fortunately, some archaeology digs are changing that trend by producing final reports in beautiful volumes, thereby sharing their discoveries with the public and other scholars interested in Israel archaeology.

Digs that have recently been published include Benjamin Mazar’s Ophel excavation south of the Temple Mount (taken up after his death by his granddaughter, Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar), Larry Stager’s continuing excavation at the Philistine site of Ashkelon, and the late Avraham Biran’s decades-long excavation at Tel Dan in northern Israel.

As editor Hershel Shanks speculates in his First Person column in the January/February issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Biran may have found it hard to publish because he kept uncovering such wonderful things at Tel Dan—such as the “House of David” inscription, the 4,000-year-old city gate with its arched entranceway, the so-called “Dancer from Dan” kicking up his heels and much more—that he did not want to stop digging.* Fortunately his devoted staff have now taken up the publication effort since Biran’s death and recently produced Volume III of the Tel Dan final excavation reports.

Since the failure of archaeology digs to publish their finds is so often criticized, Shanks welcomes the opportunity to “sing a few Hosannas” in praise of Tel Dan and other excavations that are now producing final reports and shedding light on the past through Israel archaeology.



* For more about the Tel Dan finds, see “‘David’ Found at Dan,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1994; and BAR Interview: Avraham Biran, “Twenty Years of Digging at Tel Dan,” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 1987.

Read more in Hershel Shanks, First Person, “In Praise of Published Excavation Reports,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2012.

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