Lecture to examine legacy of ‘biblical archaeology’

Published 30 August 2010

ishtarA public lecture at the University of New England this week will reconsider the notion of “biblical archaeology”. The lecture, titled “The rise and fall of biblical archaeology: towards a new paradigm”, will be presented by Dr Tom Davis, Director of the Cyprus-American Archaeological Institute in Nicosia.

In his book Shifting Sands: The Rise and Fall of Biblical Archaeology (Oxford, 2004) Dr Davis charted the evolution and demise of “biblical archaeology” as an attempt to ground the historical witness of the Bible in demonstrable historical reality. Before the 1970s, “biblical archaeology” was the dominant research paradigm for those excavating the history of Palestine; today, however, most scholars prefer to speak of “Syro/Palestinian archaeology”.

In Shifting Sands, Dr Davis argued that clarifying the theoretical and methodological framework of the original excavators could make their data more useful for current research – allowing for a more objective judgement of both the accomplishments and the failures of “biblical archaeology”.

Dr Davis’s talk, in the Junior Common Room, Earle Page College, at 5.30 pm on Thursday 2 September, will reflect his further thoughts on this subject since the publication of Shifting Sands. The talk is included in UNE’s “Aspects of Antiquity” lecture series.

The next day (Friday 3 September), at 9.15 am in UNE’s Arts Building (Lecture Theatre A3), Dr Davis will present a research paper in the weekly seminar series of the School of Humanities. The title of the seminar – “An amateur’s dream: George McFadden and the excavation of Kourion Cyprus” – reflects Dr Davis’s keen interest in the history of American archaeological involvement on Cyprus.

Both the lecture and the seminar are free, and everyone is welcome to attend.

Dr Davis, who has done extensive archaeological excavation work in America, Egypt and Jordan, as well as on Cyprus, is visiting UNE under the auspices of the Australian Institute of Archaeology in Melbourne. His visit is especially appropriate because of the internationally significant collection of Cypriot pottery and other material held in UNE’s Museum of Antiquities.

For more information, contact Professor Greg Horsley on 6773 2555.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows the Ishtar Gate, excavated by German archaeologists at Babylon just over a century ago, as reconstructed in the Berlin Museum.