Book Review: The Archaeology Of Jerusalem

The Archaeology Of Jerusalem:  From The Origins To The Ottomans, by Katharina Galor and Hanswulf Bloedhorn

This particular book is one that seeks to toe a difficult line between showing appreciation for all aspects of the past and wrestling with the tense relationship between textual and archaeological approaches to a city that has a complex and conflicted history in Jerusalem [1].  The authors do not do their job perfectly, but the book does encourage readers to read more about the place, fills in gaps by examining eras that most writers neglect for one reason or another, and does supplement nicely a trip to the city of Jerusalem in imagining how the city has changed over time and how different ages left a mark on the city.  Fortunately, the authors do not tend to involve themselves too often in conflicts between writers or interpreters and take a generally irenic tone that lowers the hostility that some readers may have given the perspectives they present.  By focusing on the history of Jerusalem in a way that does justice to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and gives praise to all for the way that they have left beautiful architectural and material remains throughout history, the book will likely appeal to a broad interest of those interested in Jerusalem’s history.

After an introduction that examines the history of various digs in the city of Jerusalem, the authors take a chronological view of the remains of Jerusalem.  There is a brief discussion of the natural and built limits of the city (1), an examination of the chalcolithic period and bronze age (2), an examination of Israelite iron age Jerusalem (3), a discussion of the Bablylonian and Persian periods (4), and a lengthy look at the Hellenistic period (6).  By this point the authors have gone nearly halfway through their survey.  There is a brief discussion of the Roman era (5) after the destruction of the second temple, the Byzantine period (6) and a lengthier discussion of the early Islamic (7) and alternating crusader and Ayyubid periods (8) before the book finishes with a discussion of the Mamluk (9) and Ottoman periods (10).  The authors then provide a brief epilogue as well as two appendices that show their views of Jerusalem’s chronology and a record of major excavations in Jerusalem.  Throughout the book there are a lot of photos and drawings of various finds and evidence of different periods of construction throughout Jerusalem’s complicated history.

By and large, this book is to be treasured for the picture it gives of the impact of various layers of settlement on Jerusalem.  The authors provide plausible and charitable interpretations of areas where the textual and material culture of the city of Jerusalem are in conflict, or where those who lived and ruled over Jerusalem for a long period of time left less of a record than one would expect.  The authors discuss the issues of Jerusalem’s place as a pilgrimage site for three religions and how the importance of various sites has led to a high degree of conflict in various parts of history.  The authors show themselves to be well-read about the history of the city and also well-informed about how to date periods from pottery and how difficult it is to distinguish individuals and time periods during some parts of Jerusalem’s history.  And while the author are not believers in the Bible (or apparently any other religion) their commitment to truth and to high standards of research and inquiry lead their work to be useful to those who desire to know the facts on the ground in Jerusalem, regardless of one’s background and perspective, and that is something to greatly appreciate, even if attempts at fairness and neutrality in Jerusalem are not as common as one might hope for.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Biblical History, Book Reviews, Christianity, History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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