“Replacing the Center: Putting the Bible Back into Biblical Archaeology”
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American archaeology in Israel is at a crisis stage. The older style “Biblical archaeology” of the 1920’s-1970’s was superceded by a more professional and largely secular “Syro-Palestinian archaeology” from about 1980-2000. Now our field, usually called “Levantine archaeology” by younger Americans, is so divided that it can hardly be called a real “discipline.” The essential problem is that the center has been lost, and without finding a new consensus, we Americans have poor prospects for the future.
The Israeli national school has long since come to dominate archaeology in Israel, and rightly so. In Israel we Americans cannot possibly compete. But can we survive at all?
Our major secular universities, and even some conservative theological seminaries, have closed their graduate programs in archaeology. There are very few graduate students in training, and fewer jobs. But evangelical archaeologists in both Israel and Jordan are flourishing. Is that the wave of the future for us?
William G. Dever is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Near Eastern Studies and Anthropology at University of Arizona and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Archaeology at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.