Tuesday, December 5, 2006

David Ussishkin has not read "Facts on the Ground." He is familiar with the allegations leveled by Nadia Abu El Haj - of politicized archaeology and the deliberate destruction of upper (Islamic) layers out of nationalist motives in the dig he headed in the Jezreel Valley - from the publication of excerpts from Facts on the Ground in this blog:

5 December 2006

Here are my comments regarding the observations of Nadia el-Haj about the Jezreel excavations. I don’t know the book, and I rely on your quotations.

1. I don’t remember meeting Nadia el-Haj during the excavations. All her accusations are based on talks with anonymous participants after the excavations. She did not study the excavation reports nor approached the directors of the project to ask their views. This is not a proper and serious way of research.

2. The main interest in Tel Jezreel is the Iron Age enclosure, which turns it into a site of prime importance. Beyond that the site is of minimal interest especially as most remains in most periods are badly preserved and hardly stratified. I initiated the excavation project as monumental Iron Age remains were exposed in development works. As an archaeologist I am specializing in the ancient historical periods and hence my interest in Jezreel.

3. Although the focus of the project was on the Iron Age enclosure the study of other periods was not neglected. Wherever there were remains later than the Iron Age they were properly excavated and studied. One large excavation field – the medieval church and the underlying levels did not have any Iron Age remains at all. Proper summaries of all later-in-date unstratified remains, particularly of the Byzantine period, were published.

4. There are legitimate discussions of excavation methods in each site and of course such discussions took place at Jezreel, and different opinions have been expressed. I believe we adopted balanced excavation methods there; in any case, the Iron Age levels and the later levels were all excavated in a similar fashion.

5. I believe the use of a JCB to determine the line of the rock-cut Iron Age moat was justified. It was essential to establish the size of the Iron Age enclosure in order to understand properly the site. In most of the area to the south of the site where this work took place bulldozers had removed and disturbed the debris during development works which had taken place here prior to the beginning of the excavation project. In view of the nature of the debris here it would have been impossible to accomplish the work with the aid of students/volunteers. A JCB with a long arm working delicately under archaeological supervision was the right solution: it can do useful work without damaging ancient remains, and I believe that this was the case here. Some later wall remains were exposed and recorded but were mostly left unexcavated – they probably belong to Byzantine domestic remains in the Iron Age moat or along its inner side. They all remain buried for future excavations.

With all best wishes,

David Ussishkin

Update: One of El Haj's academic reviewers posts about the controversy at his own blog, here: re: Discussion of Nadia Abu el-Haj’s book on Israeli Archaeology: the way, despite what Abu el-Haj repeatedly states, Israeli archaeologists do not only excavate archaeological remains relating to “their heritage”. In fact, as any one can see from the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath for example, we deal with, excavate, study, publish and relate to finds from various periods, including “Pre-Israelite”, “Post-Israelite” etc.

He offers emailers a pdf version of this review of the book. Readers can also read the review back here.


Trust David Usshiskin on this. He is an internatinally respected scholar, heading the dig at Meggido.

And who is El Haj? An untenured enemy of facts, who brags, BRAGS, that s“Reject(s) a positivist commitment to scientific methods…”

I'll trust scholars who respect scientific methods.

Edward Said on Nadia Abu El Haj:

Edward Said, speaking at Ewart Hall, The American University in Cairo, on March 17, 2003, “Even so apparently innocent a discipline such as archeology, which is one, of course, of the prides of Egypt, was used in Israel and was made complicit in the making-over of the land and its markers, as if there had never been any Arabs or any other civilizations there except Israel and the Israelites. This is very well described by a young Palestinian anthropologist Nadia Abu El-Haj in her recent book called Facts on The Ground: Acheological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society (2002). Her argument is that in the process of providing Israel with an ancient objectivized history visible in archeological evidence, the traces of other more just as historical histories were ignored or simply moved away by trucks and bulldozers.”

* This article is based on the transcription of a lecture Edward Said delivered at Ewart Hall, The American University in Cairo, on March 17, 2003. He was not able--because of his illness--to send Alif the final version he promised.

Edward Said
Memory, inequality, and power: Palestine and the universality of human rights *.

Journal of Comparative Poetics

Publication Date: 01-JAN-04

Author: Said, Edward W.

COPYRIGHT 2004 American University in Cairo

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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