In perhaps an excessive concern that we give fair voice to our critics, I write to report that three prominent archaeological geologists have accused a BAR story that I wrote of including “defamatory phrasing.”

In the September/October 2013 BAR, I wrote a story in which I assessed three different scholarly assaults on the date of Hezekiah’s famous Jerusalem tunnel—traditionally dated to the years just before Sennacherib’s siege of the city. The attack on this traditional date mounted by the geologists (Amihai Sneh, Eyal Shalev and Ram Weinberger of the Geological Survey of Israel) charged that it would have taken at least four years to dig this tunnel and Hezekiah did not have a four-year warning that Sennacherib would attack Jerusalem. This led them to another more reasonable date for the digging of the tunnel. On this basis, they suggest that it should be called Manasseh’s Tunnel instead of Hezekiah’s Tunnel.

In response to this argument, two archaeologists, Aren Maeir and Jeffrey Chadwick, published a piece on our website, essentially using historical records to show that Hezekiah did have four years and more warning of Sennacherib’s attack—more than enough time for Hezekiah’s Tunnel to be excavated even if it did take four years. Maeir and Chadwick even criticized the prestigious peer-reviewed journal in which the geologists’ article had appeared (BASOR, or the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research) for failing to catch this flaw in the geologists’ argument.

The geologists submitted a lengthy response (more than 800 words), which I deemed too long for the letters section of the magazine, so I published it on our website, noting in the magazine that the response was on our website, together with the web address.—H.S.

The geologists replied in another letter to the editor:

Our paper on the Siloam Tunnel (BASOR, 2010) was the subject of 1/3 of the article in the most prestigious journal, BAR, which goes to tens of thousands of readers. The writer [Hershel Shanks] based his comments on our BASOR paper on entirely slanderous and baseless remarks published on your website [by Aren Maeir and Jeffrey Chadwick], but still Shanks should be accountable for what he published. This coupled with defamatory phrasing makes it almost libelous. Throughout my 50-year-long career, never have I come across such conduct.

Abraham Sneh, co-signed by my colleagues Prof. Ram Weinberger and Dr. Eyal Shalev