ASOR Lives It Up
Learning and Haute Cuisine at Anniversary Celebration
The hundredth anniversary bash for ASOR (the American Schools of Oriental Research, the premiere American society of Near Eastern archaeologists), held in Washington, D.C., over the weekend of April 14–16, 2000, had everything—even some serious scholarly papers. The highlight, however, was a gala reception and banquet held on Friday night in the elegant, crystal-chandeliered rooms of the State Department, arranged under the auspices of Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering and his wife, Alice, longtime Near Eastern archaeology aficionados and ASOR supporters. Pickering is the only person to have served as United States ambassador to both Jordan and Israel. Guests at the $150-a-plate affair sipped champagne and nibbled gourmet hors-d’oeuvres on a balcony overlooking the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Capitol and, on the Virginia side of the Potomac, Arlington Cemetery.
The menu at the seated dinner (complete with individual place cards) is too long to print. Suffice it to say it included an “Intermezzo” of “Rose Geranium Sorbet” and a main course that included both “Petit Tournedos with a Ragout of Wild Mushrooms” and “Sautéed Salmon with Black Bean-Shrimp Salsa,” served by waiters well accustomed to French service.
Favors at each place setting included a chocolate tablet impressed with cuneiform!
The next night, an evening of roasts and toasts at a Washington hotel, featured an accomplished belly dancer who demonstrated that belly dancing is as much art as sex. In between, an all-day session at the Smithsonian Institution on the Mall featured a series of talks by prominent scholars geared to the general public. It was standing-room only.
Sunday morning was devoted to scholarly talks for the scholarly registrants—all on a high level. In short, an all-around success. The only criticism I heard was that the $150 tab for the banquet excluded many of the academics who came to the celebration. Most of the hair at the banquet was indeed white, and most of the guests who weren’t financial supporters of ASOR or members of the diplomatic corps were senior scholars and old-time ASOR leaders. Yes, the rich do live better.
Reich Receives Jerusalem Prize
From Bronze Age Towers to Byzantine Homes
Ronny Reich has been awarded the prestigious Jerusalem Prize for his work on the archaeology of Israel’s capital.
Reich (together with Eli Shukron) has helped to rewrite the history of early Jerusalem through his excavations in the City of David. Reich and Shukron’s discoveries include a massive tower that defended the city’s water supply as far back as the Middle Bronze Age (18th and 17th centuries B.C.; see their article, “Light at the End of the Tunnel,” BAR 25:01) and a second, outer wall that protected Jerusalem in the eighth century B.C. (see Hershel Shanks, “Everything You Ever Knew About Jerusalem Is Wrong,” BAR 25:06).
Reich also led renewed excavations at the southwest corner of the Temple Mount, where he and codirector Yaakov Billig discovered a finely paved Herodian street and a row of shops along the western side of the Mount (see Shanks, “Archaeological Hot Spots,” BAR 22:06).
A frequent contributor to BAR, Reich is a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa and an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority. He received his initiation in Jerusalem archaeology working for a decade (from 1969 to 1978) as an assistant to Nahman Avigad, now deceased, during his excavation of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.
Reich moved on to lead the excavation of the Mamilla area, just outside Jaffa Gate. There he discovered cemeteries from the Iron Age and the Byzantine period, as well as Byzantine living quarters, a bathhouse and medieval fortifications (see his “‘God Knows Their Names,’” BAR 22:02).
Reich is also a coauthor of the guidebook The Jerusalem Archaeological Park, which was favorably reviewed in our previous issue.
The Key to Bethsaida
Pope Presented with Replica by Excavators
Pope John Paul II, while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land this past spring, was presented with a replica of a key discovered in excavations in Bethsaida, the Galilee site that was home to three apostles, including Peter. The presentation took place after a mass conducted by the pontiff at a monastery in Tabgha, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. The monastery, located just southwest of Bethsaida, commemorates the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.
The Vatican had asked that the original key be given to the Pope on his visit to Galilee, but, as Israeli law forbids the export of the nation’s antiquities, the duplicate was made for the pontiff instead.
The presentation was particularly meaningful because of the key’s association with Bethsaida, the home of Peter, and because keys are a symbol of papal authority. In Matthew 16:19, Jesus tells Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” In Catholic tradition, the Pope is considered the successor to Peter.
The delegation that made the presentation included Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Richard Freund of the University of Hartford, the two directors of the Bethsaida excavations.a “Usually academic work is only important to a handful of scholars, but our work at Bethsaida has affected millions of the faithful,” Freund told BAR.
Excavations at Bethsaida began in 1987; until that year, archaeologists weren’t even sure where the city had been located. Bethsaida means “House of the Fisherman,” so it was with great excitement that Arav, Freund and their team discovered a residential quarter during the first season of excavation, particularly a house that they now call the Fisherman’s House because of the finds within it: lead net weights, anchors, needles and fishhooks. In an adjacent structure, dubbed the House of the Winemaker because it contained a wine cellar, wine jars and pruning hooks, the excavators discovered three bent iron nails (probably from the door hinges) and an iron key. It is a replica of that key that was given to the Pope. A second copy of the key was blessed by the Pope and will go on exhibit in September at universities belonging to the Bethsaida excavation consortium.
Following the ceremony, the Pope was flown in a helicopter over Bethsaida, which had been specially lit for the occasion with torches and electric beam lights. Bethsaida’s proud excavators gathered below to wave at the helicopter as it passed overhead.
James A. Sauer, 1945–1999
Directed ACOR and ASOR
James A. Sauer, a widely admired archaeologist, teacher, administrator and scholar, died on November 23, 1999, in Massachusetts of Huntington’s disease. He served as director of the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) from 1974 to 1981 and as president of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) from 1982 to 1988.
Jim’s archaeological training began early. While still a high school student, he was introduced to field archaeology by his father, an Old Testament scholar, who spent a sabbatical year in Jerusalem in 1960–61. Jim volunteered at two sites that year. After high school, however, Jim devoted himself not to archaeology but to philology, receiving his B.A. in Biblical Hebrew and classical Greek at Concordia College in 1967. With his background in ancient languages and his field experience, he was well prepared for a graduate program in Near Eastern archaeology at Harvard University. He completed his Ph.D. in 1973 and went immediately to Jordan as annual professor at ACOR, ASOR’s outpost in Amman (founded just five years before).
The following year Jim assumed the directorship of ACOR, serving as its first long-term director. His tenure at ACOR saw the inauguration or expansion of numerous ASOR-affiliated projects in Jordan. He also served as the ad-hoc ceramics specialist for countless field projects, unselfishly sharing the benefits of his matchless expertise as a pottery typologist.
In 1980 Jim was a founding participant in the first International Conference on the History and Archaeology of Jordan at Oxford University, now a triennial event.
Jim moved back to the United States in 1981, when he was simultaneously appointed to a teaching post at the University of Pennsylvania and a curatorship of Syro-Palestinian Archaeology in the University Museum. While there he served two terms as ASOR president, playing a key role in raising funds to build a permanent facility for ACOR in Amman. He also fostered the growth of ASOR’s newest foreign center, the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute in Nicosia.
When Jim’s second term as ASOR president ended in 1988, he became curator and research associate at the Harvard Semitic Museum. There he divided his time between his own work on the pottery of Hesban, in Jordan, and his plan to secure for the museum a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant for renovation of the 100-year-old structure and the rehousing of its ancient Near Eastern collections. The onset of his illness prevented fulfillment of his plans.
Jim received numerous awards for his archaeological work. In 1996 the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan awarded him the Order of the Star in recognition of his long service to the archaeology of Jordan. The Republic of Yemen awarded him the Order of Culture and Arts in 1998 for his contributions to the archaeological investigation of Yemen.
Jim Sauer was widely regarded as an expert on Syro-Palestinian pottery and was closely identified with Jordan, the country where he first did fieldwork and where he spent much of his archaeological career. But Jim’s lasting legacy reaches outside the narrow specialization of ceramic typology and beyond the borders of Jordan. Among Jim’s wide circle of colleagues, students and friends from North America, Europe and the Near East were prehistorians and Islamicists, anthropologists and historians, classicists and Biblical archaeologists. In his life and in his work, Jim touched us all.
Quote of the Month
Leading Minimalist: “Ancient Israel Is a Monstrous Creature”b
“Historical-critical scholarship [of the Bible] is based on a false methodology and leads to false conclusions. [This] simply means that we can disregard 200 years of biblical scholarship and commit it to the dustbin. It is hardly worth the paper on which it is printed … The biblical picture of ancient Israel does not fit in but is contrary to any image of ancient Palestinian society that can be established on the basis of ancient sources from Palestine or referring to Palestine. There is no way this image in the Bible can be reconciled with the historical past of the region. And if this is the case, we should give up the hope that we can reconstruct pre-Hellenistic history on the basis of the Old Testament. [According to Lemche, the Old Testament “hardly predates the Greco-Roman period”—that is, the third century B.C.—at the earliest.—Ed.] It [the Old Testament] is simply an invented history with only a few referents to things that really happened or existed. From an historian’s point of view, ancient Israel is a monstrous creature. It is something sprung out of the fantasy of biblical historiographers and their modern paraphrasers, i.e., the historical-critical scholars of the last two hundred years.”
What Is It?
A. Banana rack
B. Serving platter lid
C. Rod finial
What It Is, Is …
Made from the tusks of between 20 and 30 wild boars, helmets such as this one would have been worn only by ancient warriors of the highest rank. This particular helmet—reconstructed from 42 tusks found in a chamber tomb in Attica, Greece—dates to the 13th century B.C. and is typical of the battle headgear of distinguished Mycenaeans, ancient Greeks who developed a strong and distinctive culture between the 16th and 12th centuries B.C. and who dominated the Aegean civilizations of the time.
Homer, writing in the eighth century B.C., was fascinated by the weapons and armor of these Bronze Age warriors. In both the Iliad and the Odyssey, his epic works, he describes his heroes wearing gleaming armor and carrying enormous shields and long spears. During the Trojan War, he recounts, Odysseus (the hero of the Odyssey) himself wore a boars’ tusk helmet. The helmets were extremely precious and were passed down through the generations; boars’ tusks were also prized for themselves and were worn as jewelry and copied in decorations.
ASOR Lives It Up
Learning and Haute Cuisine at Anniversary Celebration