• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    Archaeology & Politics in Jerusalem

    Ahdaf Soueif has a fascinating piece in today's Guardian called "The Dig Dividing Jerusalem". Soueif is an Egyptian political and cultural commentator (as well as a short story writer and novelist) and is giving an alternative view on the archaeological work at sites in the occupied territories. Silwan, for example, has been identified as the site of the City of David, but Soueif claims that "most scholars agree that, to this day, no evidence of the presence of Kings David or Solomon has been found at the site".

    I don't really have enough of a grasp on the subject to assess such a statement, but if true it would make the claims of Soueif and others fairly shocking. Half a million people are given tours of the area each year by the same organisation that are carrying out the dig, undermining, and in some cases subsiding Palestinian homes and schools. The significance given to any archaeological finds in the area boost the saleability of the tours, whilst simultaneously strengthening the case for Israeli control of the area.

    Soueif doesn't really touch on the other potential dynamic at work here: the majority of tourists that visit archaeological sites in Jerusalem do so because of religious convictions. They pay significant amounts of money to in order to see how archaeology supports the Bible, thus informing and strengthening their faith. Such a scenario however leaves these tourists highly susceptible to confirmation bias: having paid out all that money and travelled all that way, most people will be pre-disposed to believe that the claims made about these sites are true.

    All of which goes to show that you have to be careful to weigh such claims carefully - they maybe heavily influenced by political or religious bias.
    (Please note: the above photo was taken in Morocco not Jerusalem!)


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