‘writing the dead sea scrolls’ to re-air on national geographic channel december 11, 2010

Dr. Robert Cargill appears in "Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls" on National Geographic ChannelWriting the Dead Sea Scrolls” is scheduled to re-air on NatGeo December 11, 2010. I’ve previously posted about this here.

If you’re interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls, this is the show to watch.

Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls Airs on National Geographic Channel: Some Reflections

Dr. Robert Cargill appears in "Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls" on National Geographic ChannelNational Geographic Channel aired the documentary Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls this evening, Tuesday, July 27, 2010. It was accompanied by a UCLA Today story by Meg Sullivan and an article entitled, “Dead Sea Scrolls Mystery Solved?” by Ker Than on National Geographic News.

I wrote about the making of this documentary in a blog shortly after returning from filming it in January 2010. I’ll let others critique the show (you’re also welcome to praise it, but such is usually not the nature of Qumran studies ;-). I shall offer here just a quick summary of what the producers were trying to do with the show.

What This Documentary Explores

The point of the documentary was to highlight the most recent scholarship on Qumran and to get the different, often warring sides talking to one another. As a relatively young scholar in this field, I was asked to investigate the new claims to see what they have to offer.

No one theory answers all of the questions about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and no one Qumran scholar owns the whole truth. The traditional Qumran-Essene Hypothesis – where Essenes built Qumran and wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls there – has slowly been losing support over the past decades. Other theories have been offered in its place, but many of these theories take extreme positions claiming, often rancorously, that the scrolls have nothing to do with Qumran and that the scrolls are the products of anyone but the Essenes. These alternative theories have just as many problems, if not more so. This documentary hopes to show that the answer lies somewhere in between, and that only when all sides work together as professionals and actually talk to one another in a professional dialogue can we begin to reach a viable solution to the question of who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

There is a tremendous congruency of ideology within the sectarian manuscripts, which make up a significant portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is a congruent, yet unique messianic expectation (or expectations), interpretation of scripture, halakhic interpretation, and a unique, but consistent calendar present within the sectarian manuscripts recovered from the Qumran caves. It is difficult to explain this congruence – the use of a solar calendar, references to the Teacher of Righteousness, Community Rules for life together in the desert, and especially the very low view of the Jerusalem Temple priesthood – within these sectarian documents if one argues they came from disparate libraries in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Origin Theory (defined as: the Dead Sea Scrolls were in no way a product of anyone living at Qumran and came, rather, from various Jewish libraries throughout Jerusalem) creates more problems than it solves and has been dismissed time and time again. It fails to explain the congruency of ideology in the sectarian manuscripts. Likewise, the Jerusalem Temple Library theory (which argues that the scrolls are the product of the official library of the Jerusalem Temple) has also been discounted as it fails to explain why the Jerusalem Temple priests would preserve and copy literature that so negatively portrays their activities and emphasizes their illegitimacy.

At the same time, it is difficult to explain some of the ideological diversity present within some of the scrolls if one argues that all of the scrolls were composed by a single sectarian group at Qumran. For example, why are the scrolls written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek if they are the product of a single sectarian community? Likewise, the Copper Scroll from Cave 3 is from a later date than the rest of the scrolls, is written on a different medium, and in a different dialect (some say language) of Mishnaic Hebrew. We simply cannot consider the Copper Scroll the product of a community of Jewish sectarians living at Qumran.

Therefore, it is possible that more than one group or groups hid documents in caves surrounding Qumran. Based upon the evidence, it is possible that a group of sectarian Jews took up residence in the former fortress that was Qumran, brought scrolls with them to the site, copied and penned other scrolls, and hid them all in the nearby caves during the suppression of the Jewish Revolt by the Romans. They may or may not have been Essenes (although the Essenes are still the best candidate for the sect at Qumran). The theory examined in this documentary (a Multiple-Cave, Multiple Author theory, or whatever you choose to call it) explains both the congruence and the diversity within the scrolls, and it explains the development of ideological and theological thought contained with the scrolls from one of strict halakhic interpretation to one that incorporates and develops apocalyptic and dual-messianic expectations, as well as rules for life together as a community. This is not to say that the Multiple Cave Theory is not without problems. The statistical analysis is still in need of serious review and critique, and a theory that argues that different caves “belong to” or “represent” different sectarian groups may be overly simplistic. However, it is a new attempt to explain the congruency and the diversity of the Dead Sea Scrolls and is worthy of examination.

Simply put, some of the scrolls could be the product of a sect within a movement (if I may so summarize John Collins) that resided at Qumran, and other scrolls may be the product of other groups that hid scrolls in many of the caves nearby Qumran. This explains the congruency of sectarian ideology and the diversity of the scrolls, as well as their presence in caves both in Qumran’s backyard (Caves 7-9, 4-5) and those some distance from Qumran, as well as explaining the nature of the archaeological expansions made to the site of Qurman, which appear to be in a communal, non-military fashion.

On this last topic (the archaeology of Qumran), I shall dispense with the equally difficult discussion about the origin and nature of the Qumran settlement. While some have argued that the Essenes built the settlement from the ground up at a date ranging anywhere between 150-50 BCE, I have argued that Qumran was initially built as a fort, was abandoned, and was reoccupied by a small community of Jewish sectarians who were ultimately responsible for collecting, copying, and even composing some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. (In fact, I can recommend an excellent book on the subject. ;-) You will notice, however, that I nowhere in the documentary touted my own theory. Rather, my job was to investigate other scholars’ claims and to assess all of the evidence fairly and without prejudice. The producers chose the interviewees and setup the interviews, and I had the opportunity to talk to this diverse assemblage of archaeologists and scientists and ask them about their research.

The Point of This Exercise

The point of the documentary and of the producers’ approach was to do less of this, and have more of the professional exchange of ideas and more of the kind of scholarly and public dialogue that a documentary like this can generate. It is possible to discuss Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls without resorting to aliases and anonymity, without abusing one’s position to suppress new ideas, and without doing drive-by hit jobs on the personal lives of graduate students and scholars with whom you disagree. This documentary is an example of how one can facilitate a discussion amongst a number of scholars – many of whom disagree strongly – and present the new information, responses to these new ideas, and allow the viewer (both scholar and non-specialist alike) to make an informed decision. It is hoped that this documentary can shed light on the new research surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls, and can serve as an example of how scholarship can be done professionally and collaboratively in this new age of modern media and the Digital Humanities.

The Importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are important because they are the oldest known copies biblical manuscripts we have. They are important because they demonstrate the length Jews were willing to go to protect what they considered Scripture. The scrolls are important because while they have nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity (i.e., nothing to do with John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, Jesus, or the early Christian community), they demonstrate that the Christians were not the only Jewish sect reinterpreting Hebrew scripture and applying it toward their leader (the “Teacher of Righteousness” as opposed to Jesus), awaiting a Messiah (actually, two Messiahs were expected at Qumran as opposed to only one (Jesus) in Christianity), engaging in ritual purification (cf. baptism in Christianity), holding property in common (cf. Acts 2:44-45), and awaiting a final, apocalyptic battle (cf. the War Scroll at Qumran and the New Testament book of Revelation). The Dead Sea Scrolls show us the importance of scripture and its interpretation to Second Temple Judaism.

Thank You

My thanks to Executive Producer Ray Bruce and CTVC for producing the show, choosing the scholars, and allowing much of their new research regarding Qumran to come alive. Thanks also to Producer, Director, Writer, and fearless leader John Fothergill for his excellent direction, script, vision, support, encouragement, and enthusiasm in making this project. Thanks also to associate producer Paula Nightingale, who made everything happen when it was supposed to, and to Director of Photography Lawrence Gardner, who shot a beautiful show, and to Sound Engineer David Keene for making the show sound so wonderful (as well as for the many great late evening laughs). Thanks also to Israeli producer Nava Mizrahi and to Antonia Packard for making everything in Israel pleasant and expedient. May we share many more adventures together.

journey to discover who really wrote the dead sea scrolls

Dr. Robert Cargill viewing the copy of the Great Isaiah Scroll at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

Dr. Robert Cargill viewing the copy of the Great Isaiah Scroll at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

who really wrote the dead sea scrolls? that is the subject of a forthcoming documentary produced by ctvc in london for the national geographic channel. i was asked to be among the interviewees which include (in alphapetical order):

  • robert cargill
  • rachel elior
  • shimon gibson
  • jan gunneweg
  • gideon hadas
  • jean-baptiste humbert
  • jodi magness
  • yuval peleg
  • stephen pfann
  • ronny reich
  • adolfo roitman
  • lawrence schiffman
  • orit shamir
  • pnina shor

the documentary is designed to take all evidence into account, including the site of qumran, the known sects of the second temple period, the caves in which the dss were found, and the contents, shape, size, date, paleography, orthography, language, and ideology of the scrolls themselves.

we discussed several aspects of the scrolls including what it meant to be understood as ‘jewish’ in the second temple period. would orthodox zadokites have understood pharisees to be ‘real’ jews? how about essenes? can one be perceived as jewish if one celebrates yom kippur and passover on a date different from other ‘orthodox’ jews? what does it mean that some jews followed different calendars? what if they believed in various versions of an afterlife if they even believed in an afterlife at all? what happens if different groups claim different biblical canons or have a different understanding of what is ‘scriptural?’ what happens if they expected different messiahs or even multiple messiahs? that is to ask, how far can one stray from orthodox temple judaism before one is no longer considered ‘jewish’ and is considered something else?

on my trip, i visited the kidron and og wadis. i walked through ronny reich’s excavation in the drainage tunnels leading from the temple mount to the kidron valley. i dug the destruction layers at en gedi with gideon hadas and climbed atop masada to ask what copies of genesis, deuteronomy, leviticus, psalms, ezekiel, and most importantly, songs of sabbath sacrifice (fragments of which were also found in qumran caves 4 and 11) would be doing on top of the mountain fortress. i walked around qumran with yuval peleg and had him interpret the site for me based upon his ten seasons of excavations there. we later had a drink at the american colony and discussed the various interpretations of qumran and a couple of recent scandals surrounding the study of the scrolls. i read from the actual isaiah scroll in the basement vault of the shrine of the book with curator adolfo roitman. i held actual scroll jars and viewed roland de vaux’s actual field notes at the école biblique with jean-baptiste humbert. i walked around the walls of jerusalem to what shimon gibson believes to be the gate of the essenes. i visited cave 11 with stephen pfann and listened while he explained his multiple cave theory. i visited the israel antiquities authority’s organic materials lab and had orit shamir show me the scroll linens, the tefillin (phylacteries), wooden bowls, and other domestic items from the caves like combs and sandals. i visited the iaa’s restoration lab with pnina shor and watched as her crew restored fragments of the dss and prepared others for travel abroad for exhibition in the united states.

the production crew was wonderful. led by ctvc executive producer ray bruce, the field team consisted of director/producer john fothergill, associate producer paula nightingale, director of photography lawrence gardner, sound engineer david keene, israeli producer nava mizrahi, and antonia packard.

when it was all said and done, i felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to follow the path of the dead sea scrolls from their creation to their hiding, their discovery, restoration, and exhibition. i have a much better picture of who really wrote the dead sea scrolls. did the essenes really write them? some of them? were the scrolls written at qumran or elsewhere? should we even consider the dead sea scrolls a single corpus? or, should see it as a bunch of different collections of writings from various different jewish groups throughout the land? want to know what i think? it might surprise you. keep your eyes peeled in april for the national geographic channel’s presentation of the answer to the now 60 year old question: who really wrote the dead sea scrolls?

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert with the Dead Sea Scrolls collection at the École Biblique in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert

Robert Cargill and Jean-Baptiste Humbert reviewing photographs and Roland de Vaux's actual field notes at the École Biblique in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Ronny Reich in the drainage tunnels leading from the Jerusalem Temple Mount to the Kidron Valley.

Robert Cargill and Ronny Reich in the drainage tunnels leading from the Jerusalem Temple Mount to the Kidron Valley.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor in the Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.

Adolfo Roitman, Curator of the Shrine of the Book, reads from a portion of the Isaiah-a Scroll discovered in Cave 1 at Qumran. The Isaiah-a scroll is presently housed in the vault of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Adolfo Roitman

Robert Cargill and Adolfo Roitman viewing a portion of the Great Isaiah Scroll in the vault of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem's Israel Museum.

Robert Cargill and Orit Shamir

Robert Cargill and Orit Shamir at the organic materials lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Robert Cargill and Shimon Gibson at the Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Shimon Gibson at the Wall of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg in the locus 138 miqveh (ritual bath) at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg in the locus 138 miqveh (ritual bath) at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Yuval Peleg

Yuval Peleg shows Robert Cargill parts of his excavation at Qumran.

Robert Cargill and Stephen Pfann in Cave 11 near Qumran

Robert Cargill and Stephen Pfann in Cave 11 near Qumran.

Duke Conference on Archaeology, Politics, and the Media: DAY 2

Friday, April 24, 2009

8:15-8:40 am

Nina Burleigh
“Inside the Collector’s Lair and Other Tales from the Biblical Antiquities Trade in Israel and the USA”

Burleigh read excerpts from her book and spoke about the Oded Golan affair and forgeries in Israel.


8:50-9:15 am

Mark Pinsky
“The Holy Land Experience”

The journalist Pinsky spoke about the phenomenon of the Holy Land Experience to Evangelicals.

The HLE was the creation of a man named Marvin Rosenthal.

Jews and Gentiles were welcome to work there, but no Pentecostals.


9:25-9:50 am

Tony Cartledge
“Walk about Jerusalem: Protestant Pilgrims in the Holy Land”

Cartledge spoke about the difference between religious tourists and Christian pilgrims.

He spoke about the media’s coverage of pilgrim activity in Jerusalem.

Pilgrimage is set within a concept of power. Pilgrimage drives religious, nationalist, ethnic, and financial groups over others.

He displayed several organizations that prey on pilgrims to make money and to push evangelical ideology, particularly premillennialism.

Provenance and history lend more value to antiquities. If scholars write articles or letters talking about the importance of the object, it makes the object worth more.


10:20-10:40 am

Tom Davis, CAARI (Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute)
“What is a Cypriot? Archaeology and Identity”

Archaeology can become props for political interests, aiding governments in recreating history they way they want for political purposes.

Davis discussed the cultural and ethnic diversity of Cyprus over time, and the wealth of archaeological information available throughout the island.


10:40-10:50 am

Response by Donald Haggis, UNC Chapel Hill

Cypress instigates multiple identities of the past.

Archaeology can be used to alienate a people from another, as well as to combat government propaganda intended to divide people by promoting particular histories over another.

It is difficult for archaeologists to dig and to engage the community to help inform them about their own real past because of the time required and the risk of political retribution form governments in the form of withholding permits, etc.


11:00-11:20 am

Bert de Vries, Calvin College
“Umm el-Jimal”

Dr. de Vries gave a very good summary of the use of media in the Umm el-Jimal to promote knowledge about the site not only to the archaeological community, but to the local community. By working with the local government officials, archaeology can be used not noly by foreigners to dig holes in the ground and then leave, but to bolster the local community’s identity. De Vries displayed the site’s visually compelling website, and it use of images, video, and digital reconstruction to teach about the site.


11:20-11:30 am

Response by S. Thomas Parker, North Carolina State

Made two brief comments on general discussion from the day before.

1. ASOR cannot serve as an arbiter of archaeological fact vs. fiction because it does not speak with a unanimous voice.

2. Half of the people won’t care what we decide.


11:40 am – 12:00 pm

Eric Meyers, Duke
“The Quest for the Temple Mount: The Settler Movement and National Parks in Israel”

The reporting and publishing (and funding for) the reconstruction of archaeological discoveries is as important as the digging itself. Unfortunately, many times the reporting of sites by governments and NGOs is often inaccurate, or contrary to the archaeologist’s findings, favoring a propagandistic or nationalistic interpretation of the data for political purposes.

In the case of the City of David, reconstruction and publication is being used as a weapon by Jewish settlers to promote Zionist motives, evict Palestinian residents from their homes in the Silwan valley, and promote Jewish identity in East Jerusalem.

The IAA has ceded authority to do archaeology in the Silwan valley to Elad, an organization dedicated to redefining the area as a Jewish enclave. Elad administers the dig, without oversight. Publication is paid for by the IAA, Elad, and private donations from Jewish Zionist groups and Christian Fundamentalist Premillennialist Evangelicals.

Whose collective memories can be culled form these activities?

Meyers offered the website http://www.alt-arch.org as an alternative to archaeology driven by nationalistic and political ideology.


12:00-12:10 pm

Response by Rebecca Stein, Duke

The ongoing archaeological excavation in Silwan is a form of occupation. Archaeology is being used as a weapon to displace Palestinians in this East Jerusalem enclave.

Post war tourism was a way by which to promote public involvement in the Israeli investment in the occupation of Palestine.


12:30-1:45 pm

Roundtable Lunch Discussion: Where do we go from here?

Paul Flesher: Introduction

-Where do we go from here. Practical solutions to some of these problems.

Question 1: Personnel. Who would be willing to do what?

Paul says that Eric says we should create a body within ASOR as a vehicle to move things forward. Whether we call it a media committee or task force. A good model would be a committee of people who are willing to meet regularly and other people who are wiling to help out on certain kinds of things.

-passing around a sheet of paper, if you are interested and want to be involved in some level, on an occasional level or on a regular committee.

-name, email, things you’re interested in, kind of commitment you are willing make

Question 2: Now: return to practical steps

Robert Cargill: what forms of technology are there for us to use to inform and to partner with different organizations, specifically with different media organizations. But also with ourselves, how can we harness the technology out there to promote archaeology. Mentions analogies with Business School etc. Discusses UCLA Center for Digital Humanities. Robert offers the same service to this group here as his job for UCLA. How can we then take this technology, partner with strategic people within the media, to push a better, healthier view of archaeology.

1. Byron McCane: Two suggestions.
a. Readily practical: More of us start blogging
b. Dream: CNN hires a Sanje Gupta of archaeology

2. Carole Lazio: Three suggestions
a. organize a digital news feed; a way that people could post information about their sites; someone would need to study what the newsfeeds would appreciate having
b. having someone attend meetings and educate people on media relations; AAA has been doing this for years.

3. Bob Cargill says “ Here’s how you do an interview” he had friends in the media who gave him the backside about how interviews are conducted and to what end.
-suggests we provide a course on how to do interviews. partner with a media person. Here’s how you sit, speak, present yourself, can and can’t do, can and can’t expect.

4. Ray Bruce agrees with Bob. If you have some people who are media literate they will use you more often, can do it faster, trust is built up sooner. So easily done.

5. Moira Bucciarelli responds to Ray saying that SBL is already planning a session on media training

6. Rachel Hallote: not just media training, but what we say to the media. As academic s and biblical archaeologists we’ve been battling away with the bible for 50 years. Always telling people they haven’t found what they claim. They don’t want to hear that. We have to meet them half way. We need to reengage the bible which is what is pulling the media along.

7. Bob says people tell him. “you always debunk” and then people’s view of scholarship is that you are skepticism. Try to do your skepticism in a positive form (here’s what we do know) rather than negative (we can’t know that).
-Bob follows up suggesting we suggest our friends. When we deal with media reps we also give referrals. We should put together a networking model for areas of expertise. The more we can refer people that we know and trust and who are really publishing, the more we can promote those names, they don’t need to call someone they’ve found on google. Media list. Maybe that is the same clearinghouse we use to publish our credible ideas on a website. He does think you should involve a website.

8. Eric Powell: AIA is developing a training program and a list of experts, like a media go-to list.
-Bob notes that law schools do regularly contain a media contact list.

Quit looking down on the media, embrace them, and maybe they will come to us more often.

9. Mark Pinsky: says this kind of course not that complicated; you should ask them “how long is the bite” “never refer to previous answer” if you don’t like your answer you can say “lets try it again” Find out where they are going with this. If you know where they are going, you can provide the narrative spine. The more you can go where they want you to go, they more they will use your face.

10. Ethan Bronner: before you get to documentary you will start with newspaper. Notes that peer review can take a long time if you refuse to discuss your findings with the media until they are peer reviewed. You as professionals need to know how the cascading set of exposures work. List of experts is good idea. List of subspecialities is a good idea (jesus era guy but also known to believe X about what we know about that moment). Says media people are not necessarily “moneymad”. They are also interested. Still a kind of arbiter of the public (newspapers) of something no one is trying to sell you. My job is to be filter between the jerk who is trying to sell something and what is true.

11. Mark Pinsky: NYT has become the cerebrum of the industry. The producers are doing their thinking based on what is on the front of the NYT. If you can begin with Ethan or with NPR you won’t have to go those (bad) producers (because they are based on NYT any way).

12. Andy Vaughn: one of my concerns or fears in developing a list of people who can speak to a topic and to the media is that we need to find a way to build in junior scholars, women, people of color. Make sure that we are bringing all sorts of people in.

13. Paul Flesher responds: Eric is talking about the ‘good housekeeping seal’ but if you don’t get it, it creates a lot of hard feelings. Easier for ASOR to create a list of members with their specialities, publication area, where you are working.

14. Andy: if we have a list that is long and not weeded out you don’t necessary accomplish the goal. We need a list that a grammar school librarian can turn to to tell a teacher in 8th grade. We don’t want to list everyone. However, from an admin. standpoint, as soon as we start ticking people off the list, that becomes hard.

15. Moira B.: do the journalists use religion source?

16. Mark P.: outside of the big three or four, everything is very local

17. Jodi Magness: in the ASOR and SBL session on media a couple of points that came up, in terms of TV docs we have to be diligent about the kinds of people that we collaborate with. Ultimately it is the studio or the executive who has the ultimate say.
-Can see the sensitivity of putting up a list of names. Doesn’t think she would want her name on an internet list where everyone can get her information. Thinks a media committee could formulate a list, but not necessarily post or advertise it. The organization could have a link that suggests please contact us at this number.

18. Bob: Ideal thing would be to put the list in the hands of the producers. Otherwise, its’ going to be those of us who live in LA or NY .

19. Rachel H.: Most of her local tv and journalist appearances were because they used profnet. Could ASOR contact the different institutions where the members are teaching. Brings in the University PR departments.

20.Eric Meyers: what if our society might think about things that would be appropriate for production and we approach journalists?

21. Ray Bruce: says brilliant. He gets a lot of his ideas from people that he knows who ring him up. So it would be a two way thing and proactive.

22. Eric M. says: that would give us the opportunity to go to NEA to underwrite a film with a grant.
-Bob says that this is exactly what fringe scholars do.

23. Bob: Begin to use the ASOR blog ahead of time when we know something is coming. Be the first to post.

24. Mark Goodacre: Content. Using Bob’s exposure of the Golb scandal, he didn’t get polemical. He just calmly wrote the facts. Avoid the polemic.

What makes someone unusable for TV: won’t repeat anything and so unpleasant.

We should try to be calm and pleasant. To make ourselves useful and not to be perceived as hostile, grumpy, skeptical people be calm collected and just get the content out there.

25. Bob: the blogs that are the most successful are the blogs that are there everyday. very fresh.

26. Ethan B.: It is often the case that people throw a press conference. It is better to use a reporter and walk that reporter through over a series of hours because a press conference is awful. It launches it with less control over it as opposed to a reporter about whom you can be confident.
-second advantage is that paper will give it prominence because it is an exclusive.

27. Mark Pinsky: might want to choose someone who is a bit more gullible but someone who might be less skeptical. May get a better hit or better play if you pick a regional media person.

28. Byron M.: at another conference a journalist made a point that “I am not the media.” “We are all the media.”


2:00-2:50 pm

Featured Speaker: Ethan Bronner, NYT Bureau Chief, Jerusalem
“Archaeology, Politics, and the Media: A View from Jerusalem”

Began with Israel Knoll and the Hazon Gabriel

Bronner wrote a story about the Vision of Gabriel and told the audience about the feedback he got from various groups.

Talked about interviewing some archaeologists that are funded by Zionist organizations that tell the story of Israel from 1000BC to 70 CE, and then skip to 1947 CE.

Although the Jewish/Zionist approach to history and archaeology is problematic, the Palestinian is worse. Arafat denied any Jewish history, especially that there was ever a Temple on the Haram. The later leader of the Palestinian antiquities, (Araquat), told a story about how Arafat denied any Jewish presence, and that the Palestinians will continue to deny the presence of a Temple. Palestinians refusal to acknowledge any Jewish archaeological heritage drives the Jewish desire to find Jewish heritage.

The Palestinians are just as culpable as Israel in the use of archaeology for nationalism, and for the denial of cultural heritage.


3:45-3:55 pm

Ray Bruce, Head of Programmes, CTVC

Bruce was asked to hang around and observe and offered feedback from the world of tele.

The job of the tv docu producer is managing expectations. Expectations of crew, expectations of producers, and expectations of talent in front of the camera.

Expectations of the broadcaster: what will keep an audience glued to a tv for ½ hour. Noise around their shows. Noisy, risky, thought provoking shows with awards and press conferences and tie ins.

Scholars must decide whether or not we want to play the tele game or not.

Different channels are looking for different things. The BBC wants something different than ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5.

Thank God for Dan Brown. Because, up to four years ago, most people wouldn’t be discussing the council of Nicea, or whether was Judas was actually good guy.

Dan Brown raises the question and provides the opportunities for scholars to respond and educate the public.

Archaeologists are not familiar with the grammar and politics of tv production.

Bruce says he is a little bit nervous about ‘controlling the subject,’ ‘black lists,’ etc. The same is true about the rogue archaeologists. Who decides who is a rogue? The guild needs auditing, but needs to be done carefully.

The media do not know the players, but neither do most archaeologists know the players in the media.

Why not make use of media departments in us universities?


3:55-4:05 pm

Moira Bucciarelli, Public Initiatives Coordinator, SBL

Scholars feel that their views are being passed by or ignored or exploited.

One good way to improve this is to utilize/establish a media relations dept.

How do we keep a list of experts? Do we have a central list or do we keep individual lists?

Don’t leave the audience empty-handed. Don’t be absolutist, don be academic. Take them on the journey.

How do we stop the public from getting all their news from popular (and poor) websites?

Should we introduce a blog on the SBL website? Rotating authorship?

Speaker is creating a monthly newsletter for high school teachers about archaeology.

Do we need a ‘fact or fiction’ website? YES!

How can scholars avoid being in the position of only reacting to sensational archaeology.

“Nuancing the stone” will be a memorable phrase.


4:05-4:15 pm

Eric Powell, Deputy Editor of Archaeology Magazine

Discussed the American Institute of Archaeology

Powell encouraged the scholar audience to write for Archaeology Magazine?

Reasons to pause (or why scholars pause) to write for Archaeology Magazine.

The distortion of a scholar’s work often causes scholars never to work with media again.

Powell encouraged scholars to take better photographs.

Joint statements form the AIA, ASOR, SBL will go far to combat bad science.


4:15-4:25 pm

Andy Vaughn – ASOR
“Summary of the Conference”

Two competing cultures in archaeology and media.

1. The collegial culture that says that professors view that peer-reviewed articles are most important.

2. The administrator culture that says that enrollments and bottom line is essential.

The same is true for media and archaeology.

Do media not care about truth and accuracy? And do professors not care about the Bottom line and entertainment?

Archaeology is by nature an interdisciplinary endeavor. And when budgets are cut, the departments focus on departmental matters.

The tension that exists between history and re-enactment.

Archaeology cannot prove the bible, but it can support and disprove what we believe about the bible.

Scientific method is by nature negative. Science only disproves, never proves.

Re-enactment, on the other hand, provide a positive image for what we do know.

Archaeology and historical research can bring the ‘historical imagination’ alive. Without passing judgment on the historical truth of the a claim, the re-enactment and the historical imagination can be informed.

The dream of a ASOR website. ASORpedia.

A Wikipedia of archaeological and historical sites throughout the eastern Mediterranean.

FAQ section
Fact or Fiction section
Experts section
Moderated blog section

The site must be something the teachers can trust.

Continuing funding can come in the form of ads.

Elementary schools are looking for authoritative sites that students can cite.

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