Blogger of the Month for June 2006
Jim West Interviews Aren Maeir
Editorial Note: Aren Maeir is the author of the weblogThe Official (and Unofficial) Weblog of the Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations at http://gath.wordpress.com/.
JW: Professor Maeir, Thank you so much for being willing to subject yourself to public scrutiny in our monthly interview of significant “bibliobloggers”.
My first question, sir, is, what is your background and training?
AM: I was born in 1958 in Rochester, NY, USA, and immigrated to Israel in 1969. I did my BA in Archaeology and Jewish History, and subsequently, my PhD in Archaeology at Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Over the years, I participated in excavations at various sites (such as Hazor, Yoqnean, Qasile, Ophel, Beth Shean, etc.), and directed excavations at Municipality Square and Mamilla (both in Jerusalem), and most recently (since 1996), at Tell es-Safi/Gath. I did my PhD work on the MBII of Beth Shean and Central Jordan Valley.
JW: Thank you. Now, what drew you to archaeology?
AM: I was always interested in the outdoors, as well as history, science and related issues. I guess archaeology combines it all …
JW: What is the most fascinating thing that you have discovered on your digs?
AM: I think various finds from Tell es-Safi/Gath fit in with this, such as the Aramean siege trench around the site; the so-called “Goliath inscription”, etc.
JW: How important are volunteers for your work?
AM: Volunteers are a major and extremely important part of our work. They are the background of the working staff in the field. Being highly motivated and interested, they do their job in an excellent manner. In addition, the volunteers are usually a most interesting and heterogeneous group.
JW: What can volunteers expect when they participate in a dig?
AM: To have a great time; learn a lot; meet a lot of interesting people; see a very beautiful site; get very dirty; and wake up at crazy hours …
JW: In your estimation, if persons are really interested in the archaeology of the “Holy Land” (or perhaps “biblical archaeology”), how important is it that they, at one time or another, participate as a volunteer?
AM: I think it is cardinal. If you have not visited Israel and/or the surrounding areas, it is really quite hard to get a “feeling” of what it is really like. This provides an excellent background for those interested in archaeology, bible, ancient history, etc.
JW: If you could discover one artifact, what would it be? In other words, what one thing would you like to find?
AM: A bilingual Philistine inscription, one side in the original Philistine language (probably similar to one of the ancient Aegean languages) and the other in Phoenician/Hebrew. And even better, if it would mention some historical event/persons that would provide a stronger background for understanding the history and culture of the Iron Age.
JW: I’ve always wondered something about the publication of dig reports: why does it take so long? The final reports from the excavation at Qumran by de Vaux, for example, remains as yet unpublished!
AM: This is due to several reasons: 1) Analyzing and writing reports is much less “interesting” and sexy than excavating; 2) It takes a long time to do this; 3) Most often, in the past, projects did not plan for enough resources for the post excavation analysis and publication.
JW: To turn now in a different direction, what drew you to an interest in blogging?
AM: Nathan Fain, who is an avid blogger, has been on my case for more than a year about the advantages of blogging and what an excellent outreach it is.
JW: What do you envision the future of blogging in the field of archaeology and biblical studies to be?
AM: I think it has an enormous potential! Blogging and other types of cyber-space related outreach can completely change the manner and options that the general public has for getting information and a feel for these fields.
JW: I know this is an unfair question, but which blogs do you find most valuable and interesting?
AM: I like blogs that are by Professionals, writing about their professional interests, but with a good sense of humor and humility.
AM: It puts things in the proper perspective …
JW: Now for a turn in yet another direction, what are your hobbies outside academic interests?
AM: Hiking, bird watching, running, reading (history, popular science, action novels and Oprah’s picks …), and surfing the web.
JW: What fact about you would you like to share that readers may find surprising or intriguing?
AM: I always wanted to have a pet duck but never managed to have one!
JW: Sir, thank you so much for your answers and thank you very much for your interesting, and often humorous, blog.