Public Archeology Nationalism and Public Essay

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One other area of the world which is currently experiencing some major problems related to archeological excavations in public places is the Middle East, particularly Israel and within its capital city of Jerusalem. In this case study by Yigal Bronner and Neve Gordon, the main area of dispute lies with "the way archeology is being used in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood in the oldest part" of Jerusalem, where excavations, under the guidance and support of the Israeli government, are currently being carried out. However, as Yonathan Mizrachi, an Israeli archeologist, sees it, these excavations are part of "a concerted campaign to expel Palestinians from their ancestral home" by using archeology as a leveraging tool. Mizrachi's evidence for this alleged campaign has deep connections to Elad, an Israeli settlement organization which through a variety of legal means has managed to "evict East Jerusalem Palestinians from their homes and replace them with Jewish settlers," something which apparently is quite accurate, due to the fact that Jewish homes have been built at several archeological sites which earlier were fenced in and protected by armed guards (2008, Internet).

Thus, in the opinion of Mizrachi, "Archeology has become a weapon of dispossession" in the city of Jerusalem and in other regions which many Palestinians call home. Clearly, this situation has much to do with Israeli nationalism, for as Bronner and Gordon point out, the mission of archeology in Israel, especially within the city of Jerusalem, one of the most "holiest and most sensitive sites in the Middle East...has often been deployed in the service of nationalism" as a means to "underscore the Jewish and biblical past of the land" in order to "differentiate Zionism from more traditional colonial ventures," part of the Israeli people's desire to "return to the original Jewish homeland" as laid out in 1948 by the United Nations and its decision to wholly support the creation of a Jewish state in the Middle East (2008, Internet).

In addition, the Israeli government and those hired to excavate archeological sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere "have violated several ethical rules as stipulated by the World Archeological Congress," such a failing to recognize the "indigenous cultural heritage" of the Arab people and failing to establish "equitable partnerships and relationships" between archeologists and those individuals affected or displaced by archeological excavations, all in the name of nationalism and a fervent desire to sustain the "City of David," a national park located in Silwan (Bronner & Gordon, 2008, Internet). To make matters worse, the Israel Antiquities Authority has also allowed digging beneath the homes of some residents of Silwan, mostly Palestinians, without telling them or obtaining their permission which led to some of the residents filing petitions with the Israeli Supreme Court, resulting in raids by the Israeli police (Bronner & Gordon, 2008, Internet). Certainly, this situation stands as a prime example of nationalism on a grand scale, for it not only reinforces Israeli heritage but also displaces the very people who settled in the region long before the arrival of the Jews some five thousand years ago.

Unfortunately, the possibilities for change in this matter are slim, due to the influence of the Israeli government and its refusal to allow the Palestinians to have an equal say about what occurs in their ancestral homeland, especially when it happens to be directly under an individual's private residence. In conclusion, these three case studies clearly demonstrate the power of nationalism, particularly when the remains of the past serve as weapons for elevating and protecting an individual nation's heritage.


Bronner, Yigal and Neve Gordon. (2008). Digging for trouble. [Internet], Available at[Accessed 30 December 2008].

Bruce-Mitford, Robert. (2004) the sutton hoo ship burial. Vol. 1. London, the British Museum.

Jameson, John H. (1997) Presenting archeology to the public: digging for the truth. Los Angeles, Alta Mira Press.

McGimsey, Charles R. (2002) Public archeology. New York, Seminar Press.

Newman, Conor. (2005) Misinformation, disinformation and downright distortion: the battle to save tara, 1999-2005. Uninhabited Ireland: Tara, the M3 and Public Spaces in Galway. Arlen House.

Morrison, Philip. (1991) Invitation to archeology. United Kingdom, Blackwell Publishing.

Rahtz, Philip a. (1998) Rescue…[continue]

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