About Andrea Berlin

Andrea Berlin

Andrea M. Berlin is the James R. Wiseman Chair in Classical Archaeology and Professor of Religion at Boston University. Dr. Berlin is a former Fulbright Distinguished Scholar and an award-winning teacher and lecturer who has written and edited six books and over 70 articles about life in the ancient Near East from the time of Alexander the Great through the Roman era. She is also an active field archaeologist who has been working in the eastern Mediterranean for over forty years, at projects from Troy in Turkey to Coptos in southern Egypt to Paestum, in Italy. Most recently she has wrapped up over ten seasons of excavation at Tel Kedesh, Israel, where she co-directed a team that uncovered an imperial administrative compound dating from the fifth through second centuries BCE.

Presenter at

Caribbean Seminar at Sea 2025

Worlds Colliding: Hellenism and the Jews in the Second Temple Period

Day 1: The World of the Maccabees (2nd-1st centuries BCE)

Lecture 1: Mediterranean Cosmopolitans: A Visit to Maresha

In the second century BCE many Levantines were cosmopolites – Greek for “citizens of the world.” For an up-close view, we visit Maresha, the chief city of the region of Idumea, and its multicultural citizens. Their names reflect pride in their ethnic origins – Edomite, Sidonian – while their household goods show a warm embrace of Greek goods and styles. This was a world of choice, where people honored the ties of the past while being open to the allures of the present.

Lecture 2: The Rise of the Maccabees

Where did the Maccabees come from, and how did they craft a kingdom? The story begins in the middle of the second century BCE, when the great imperial powers – the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria – were fighting for control of the southern Levant. The Hasmoneans, a landed family from rural Judea, combined armed muscle and a savvy political game to carve out an independent territory. In the tumult of Mediterranean politics in those years, they made Judea a player on the world stage.

Lecture 3: Beyond the Temple: Life in Hasmonean Palestine

The establishment of the Hasmonean kingdom gave Judeans a new political identity. How did they react? Archaeology gives us the answer. They fashioned a lifestyle that was explicitly local, a deliberate rejection of the cosmopolitan world of their neighbors. We see houses marked by simplicity, by the absence of imported items, by goods only in Jerusalem style. We see a world where people set aside materialism, making a different kind of statement about what matters.

Day 2: From Herod the Great to the Great Revolt

Lecture 4: Class Divides: Life in Herod’s Jerusalem

Today Herod the Great is best known for stunning architectural creations. In his own time, he was the influencer-in-chief, a man whose tastes and lifestyle had a huge impact on elite Jewish society. In this lecture we visit Herod’s Jerusalem, where the city’s upper class took on the trappings of Roman culture. We see how their choices opened the way to a new class divide.

Lecture 5: A Land Transformed: Galilee in the 1st c. CE

Galilee in the first century CE was a land transformed, a place where Jews lived in their own villages, surrounded by goods that reflected a particular identity and lifestyle. We see what Jewish daily life looked like in this time and place, and how simple household items provided people with an indelible feeling of communal solidarity.

Lecture 6: The Revolt and its lessons

Why would the Jews – a small population without military capabilities or political allies – dare to challenge the might of Rome? A major factor were deeply divided factions, a social fabric torn from within. For some, communal solidarity had become a hardened identity, widening the rift between Jewish commoners and elites. Some of the former turned toward zealotry; many of the latter advocated cooperation. The decision to revolt was a consequence of disunity, a scenario whose lessons still resonate today.

Bible & Archaeology Fest XXV, October 8 & 9, 2022
Hellenism and its Consequences

Alexander the Great’s conquests made Greek culture fashionable throughout ancient eastern lands – but not for everybody. In the southern Levant, two neighboring peoples reacted in very different ways to Hellenizing styles and ideas. The Idumeans, living in the fertile Shephelah (ancient Philistia), embraced Mediterranean aesthetics. The Judeans, living in the arid central hills, had a more complicated response. In the second century B.C.E., Hasmonean dynasts adopted aspects of Hellenistic culture that reinforced their ruling authority. But when Roman rule replaced the independent Jewish kingdom in the first century B.C.E., Judeans began using native goods exclusively. This “household Judaism” infused homes with a common material and cultural identity – but also led to a radical sensibility that in turn contributed to the fateful decision to revolt against Rome.

BAS Scholars Series, December 1, 2021
The Rise of the Maccabees: What Archaeology Reveals About Antiquity’s Last Independent Jewish Kingdom

This joyous holiday has its origins in the early triumphs of the Maccabees, the founding family of the Hasmonean kingdom of the second and first centuries B.C.E.

In her presentation, Berlin examines the complicated rise of this still poorly understood Jewish kingdom that arose amid complicated geopolitics in the centuries following the death of Alexander the Great. It is commonly thought, based on 1 Maccabees, that Judah Maccabee founded the Hasmonean state around 160 B.C.E., thanks to the heroic resistance movement he had started. Yet on the ground, these years were long considered invisible. Few sites or archaeological materials were thought to date to this period.

New archaeological work across Israel, however, has identified the world in which the events described by ancient authors played out. We now know it took a full generation for the Maccabees to establish a truly independent kingdom. Berlin brings this new archaeological evidence into dialogue with a fresh look at the text’s legitimizing concerns and a consideration of the wider historical stage, providing a new understanding of how and why the Maccabean kingdom arose.

ASOR/BAS Seminar on Biblical Archaeology, January 11 – 13, 2013

Behind the Return: The Real World of Ezra and Nehemiah
The Maccabees and After
Revolt! Why the Jews Took on Rome