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Excavations by K.M. Kenyon in Jerusalem 1961–1967. Vol. 6, Sites on the Edge of the Ophel

Excavations by K.M. Kenyon in Jerusalem 1961–1967. Vol. 6, Sites on the Edge of the Ophel

By Kay Prag (Levant Suppl. 18). Oxford: Oxbow 2017. Pp. xv + 300. $80. ISBN 9781785706530 (cloth).

Reviewed by

Between 1961 and 1967, the late Dame Kathleen Kenyon directed large-scale excavations in Jerusalem, commencing just three years after she had finished directing major excavations at Jericho. The excavations in Jerusalem were conducted in and around the Old City (the walled part of Jerusalem), and included many areas, some quite extensive in size and in the number of workers employed in the excavations. Unfortunately, Dame Kenyon, who passed away at the age of 72 (in 1978), did not finish publishing the massive amount of data from her various excavations. This was so for the finds at Jericho (the last of the five volumes of the Jericho final reports appeared in 1983) and even more the case for the excavations in Jerusalem. While some preliminary reports and popular summaries appeared during her lifetime, the final reports on the excavations began appearing only from 1985 onward and were authored and edited by her students and colleagues. And despite the fact that more than 50 years have passed since the conclusion of Kenyon’s excavations in Jerusalem, not all the finds have been published. As I have argued in more detail elsewhere (A.M. Maeir, “A Response to ‘On Delays in the Publication of Excavation Reports’ by P.J. Parr (PEQ 152.3, 181–83),” PEQ 153.1, 2021, 1–4), all too often, even until this very day, archaeologists excavate much more than they can actually research and publish, and time and again the results of such excavations are researched and published years after the end of the excavations, at times by the excavators themselves or by colleagues and students who may have participated in the excavations, but often publication is left to those who were not directly involved with the excavations in the field. This is problematic for many reasons. To start with, excavators, whose excavations are often funded by public resources, do not share their results with the scientific community and lay public until many years after the excavations were conducted. To this one can add that when excavations are published long after they were conducted, even by the excavators themselves, details of the excavations are often forgotten. And even more troublesome is the fact that by leaving piles of unpublished finds for posterity, a portion of the limited resources available for archaeological research must be used to research and publish finds from decades ago, instead of conducting modern, cutting-edge research. Clearly, archaeologists working today have to be more aware of these issues and excavate at a pace that will enable them—save for extenuating circumstances—to publish the finds from their own excavations in a timely manner.

Taking all this into account, Prag, the author and editor of this volume, is to be thanked for her hard work and overall impressive results in publishing two of Kenyon’s excavation areas in Jerusalem. Prag has taken over the responsibility of publishing these excavations (following three volumes published by others) and has already completed two other excavation reports and a volume on studying the Kenyon archives. She is to be profusely congratulated for putting out yet another volume in this series of final excavation reports.

The current work, volume 6, includes stratigraphic reports and discussions of various types of finds in two excavation areas, Site S.II and Site R, with remains from the Iron II, Roman-Byzantine, and Medieval periods (see table of contents on the Oxbow website). These two areas are located on the southeastern ridge, south of the Temple Mount, in what is popularly called the Ophel and the City of David. The first part of the volume (chs. 1–3) presents the results of the excavations in these two areas. In the first chapter, there is an overview and summary of the volume. Following this is a chapter details the stratigraphy, architecture, and finds from Area S.II, with particular focus on the Iron II and Byzantine-period fortifications. The third chapter provides details on the excavations of Area R, with discussion of a section of the Iron II fortification discovered in this area, finds dating to the Roman period (according to Prag, contrary to Kenyon), and a dump from the Medieval period.

The second part of the volume (chs. 4–10) includes chapters that deal with finds from diverse areas of Kenyon’s excavations, including, but not only, S.II and R. In chapter 4, the Roman-Byzantine–period fine wares from the excavations are presented. This is followed by a chapter on South Gaulish Terra Sigillata, a rare Roman ware in Jerusalem. The three following chapters are by Prag and deal with plaster, beads, mortars, decorative stone, and some other finds, as well as a reappraisal of the medieval occupation in Site L of Kenyon’s excavations.

The last two chapters deal with chemical and physical analyses of various finds from some of the excavation areas and the shells discovered in various areas of Kenyon’s excavations. These two chapters are followed by the bibliography, a short index, and plates.

Overall, the presentation of data and corresponding interpretation is conducted with very high standards, including clear discussions and sufficient illustrations. I have two main issues with this report, in addition to the aforementioned long delay in the publication of these excavations.

Firstly, these two very small excavation areas were but tiny windows into Jerusalem’s past. Subsequent to Kenyon’s field seasons, extensive work was conducted in the vicinity of—or at times directly adjacent to—her digs. The later excavations, which enabled a much more comprehensive understanding of the relevant remains, were not sufficiently taken into account in this volume. This is particularly notable with regard to Area S.II, where only a small portion of the Iron II and Byzantine-period walls had been revealed. Eilat Mazar has now excavated substantial parts of these walls, revealing numerous contextualized finds. Since Prag and Mazar do not agree on the dating of the construction phases of the Iron II wall, for example, a closer reference to Mazar's excavations, detailing this disagreement, is called for (E. Mazar et al., The Ophel Excavations to the South of the Temple Mount 2009–2013: Final Reports, 2 vols., Shoham Academic Research and Publication 2015 and 2018).

Secondly, in the discussion of the fine wares (ch. 4), there is once again no reference to the discussion of the fine wares from Mazar’s excavations, and that is particularly problematic since Fleitman and Mazar have questioned the chronology of certain Late Roman fine wares in Jerusalem (see Mazar 2015).

All told, Prag is to be commended for her hard work publishing the finds from Dame Kathleen Kenyon’s excavations in Jerusalem. I do hope, though, that we archaeologists can adopt practices today to excavate and publish realistically, responsibly, and ethically so that such postmortem publication projects can be less common in the future.

Aren M. Maeir
Institute of Archaeology
Bar-Ilan University
Ramat-Gan, Israel

Book Review of Excavations by K.M. Kenyon in Jerusalem 1961–1967. Vol. 6, Sites on the Edge of the Ophel, by Kay Prag
Reviewed by Aren M. Maeir
American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 125, No. 4 (October 2021)
Published online at
DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1254.Maeir

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