This week we heard about Eilat Mazar's thrilling find, which might be King David's Palace. My son, who's a student of Dr. Avi Faust at Bar Ilan, mentioned that the latter is about to publish a book discussing the anthropological implications and meaning of finds such as these. Faust is a real pioneer in bringing the tools of current anthropological analysis to bear on Biblical archaeology.
That got me to reflecting on the type of tunnel vision that afflicts the Israeli Academy (a point raised at the closing session of the World Congress of Jewish Studies, last Thursday evening). Around the world, archaeologists dig for finds in order to create a meaningful reconstruction of ancient life (a 'Thick Descriptive Model' in Geertzian terms). In Israel, however, we're all too often stuck with the material of our finds, and fail to ask what they mean on a larger plane.
The same is true in Talmud and Medieval Jewish Studies. We are the masters of manuscripts and philological reconstructions. But how much time do we really spend asking ourselves what all this means? How many of my fellow scholars use sociology, anthropology, cultural history, intellectual history and a plethora of other disciplines to take our work to the next level (as it were)?
I think it's high time for taking off the blinders, emerging from the tunnel and building a world on the material and textual finds we're so proud of.
(BTW, you can ignore the so-called archaeologist/propagandist from Al-Quds U. who was quoted by the Times article I linked to. OTOH, if you can tell me what he said, I"d appreciate it. It doesn't read like English.)