Journal of Palestine Studies XXIX, no. 4 (Summer 2000), pp. 103 – 4.

 

Recent Books

 

Archaeology, History and Culture in Palestine and the Near East: Essays in Memory of Albert E. Glock, ed. Tomis Kapitan. Atlanta: American Schools of Oriental Research/Scholars Press, 1999. ASOR Books, vol. 3. xiii + 299 pages. Appendices to p. 369. Index to p. 382. $49.95 paper.

 

 

“Archaeological investigation in Palestine has been especially prone to manipulation by ideological, political and religious concerns,” writes Tomis Kapitan in his foreword to this volume of essays in memory of his former Birzeit University teaching colleague, the late Albert Glock. The history of archaeology in Palestine in the past 150 years has shown these concerns to be, principally, the theological need of western Protestants to see in the archaeological record of Palestine proof of the literal truth of the Bible as a historical record; and, secondly, the nationalistic desire of Israeli archaeologists to find in this record traces of an ancient Israelite society that legitimates the existence of the modern state of Israel.

            This critique has come into fashion in the past decade. Its main proponents are the members of the so-called Copenhagen School (Keith Whitelam and Thomas L. Thompson being the best known) who have undertaken the intellectual demolition of biblical archaeology, the discipline in which these "ideological, political, and religious concerns" have thrived. The consequence of these traditional biases, they argue, has been to airbrush the Palestinians from the history of their own country.

            Albert Glock died in January 1992 in the last bitter days of the intifada, the victim of an anonymous assassin near the village of Birzeit, a stone's throw from his office in the Institute of Palestinian Archaeology which he founded. An archaeologist and scholar of rigorous honesty, he would have found the Copenhagen School's critique of the Bible as history congenial, but he took their argument a stage further. The mission he set for himself in his sixteen years of teaching at Birzeit was to use archaeological facts to establish a history of Palestine in which no one's history would be excluded. This was not to be a selective, atavistic, nationalistic history of Palestinian Arab grandeur to rival the Israeli version, but something much less spectacular and closer to the truth: the humble facts-the record of a small-scale, pluralistic society.

            Albert Glock never published a book. His writings were scattered across a number of publications, mostly for an archaeological readership. He was too busy with teaching, with founding the institute at Birzeit, with the difficult business of excavating in the West Bank with Birzeit students, all under the conditions of military occupation. This book, therefore, is welcomed as a comprehensive presentation of his ideas about Palestinian archaeology and of the multidisciplinary archaeology he sought to promote. It will be of interest both to archaeologists of the Near East and to students of the cultural politics of Palestine.

            The main body of the book is the thirteen essays promised in the title. These are on a variety of topics in the history and archaeology of Palestine and surrounding regions in the Near East The sequence begins with a perceptive biographical essay by the archaeological historian Neil Silberman that vividly evokes Glock's formidable personality and the sense of mission that he brought to his work.

            Glock first came to Palestine in 1962, a Lutheran minister and biblical scholar from Illinois, embarking on a career as a biblical archaeologist.  For three seasons before and after the 1967 war, he excavated at Tel Ti'innik in the northern West Bank, an ancient site mentioned in the Bible. He returned to the site in 1982-84, after he had abandoned biblical archaeology, and re-excavated with Birzeit students, this time looking for the remains of human occupation during the centuries of Ottoman rule, a vast period regularly ignored by Western and Israeli archaeologists.

Two of these essays are by Glock's students, who became his professional colleagues. One, by Hamed Salem, is a study of traditional Palestinian potters and pottery; the other, by Ghada Ziadeh-Seely, is a fascinating account of how the fabric of the tiny Palestinian village of Ti'innik decays and is rebuilt over time. Ziadeh-Seely was, with Glock, the joint director of the re-excavation of Ti'innik, and her study forms part of the project that was to form the foundation of a Palestinian archaeology of Palestine, a fully documented excavation of an Ottoman-era site. Glock's untimely death has left this edifice of scholarship sadly incomplete.

Most valuable of all is the inclusion of three long articles by Glock himself on the cultural politics of archaeology in Palestine, and they comprise about a quarter of the book Two of these articles, "Archaeology as Cultural Survival: The Future of the Palestinian Past" and "Cultural Bias in Archaeology," originally were published in this journal (JPS 91 and 94, respectively).