Goren Defends Bulldozer Archaeology

In response to my recent post concerning Prof. Goren’s (Tel Aviv University) use of bulldozers for the fine art of archaeology, Goren has now defended himself in the blogging world by stating that the area where he used his bulldozer is not technically on Tel Sochoh “but in a valley south of it”. I stand corrected. But, clearly, it’s part of the same dig. He says that they found “waste remains of a ceramic workshop” in the area, so he went looking for “the lost ceramic workshop”. He calls the area south of the Tel, “Area B”. He says they did regular archaeology there “for an entire week”. By the end of the week, when they came up with nothing, they “decided to make there a trial trench with a digger [bulldozer of the Caterpillar variety] to make sure that no archaeological remains existed at what was apparently virgin soil”. I think this is a very disturbing comment. Am I alone? He’s not saying that he used the bulldozer to move heavy rocks or waste. He’s saying that he went into an area where he wasn’t sure what lay beneath the ground, and decided to use bulldozers so as to “make sure”. Not only that, even though he says that the area was “apparently virgin”, he asked for an archaeological permit from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) to continue digging there. In other words, he didn’t know what lay beneath the ground. He wasn’t sure. And he was sufficiently unsure to ask for an archaeological license. Once he got the license, he used the “digger” to look for the ceramic workshop.

I don’t know which is more shocking – his use of a bulldozer to do fine archaeology or his “defense” of his methodology. Here is a man who finds “remains of a ceramic workshop” and is motivated to look for it in a specific area. He digs for a week and when he doesn’t come up with the goods, he decides to accelerate the process. He then gets a permit from the IAA and gives the green light to the digger driver to plow into the ground. Prof. Goren finishes his defense of his bulldozer methodology by saying that even though they found some “swept sherds” i.e., archaeology, the bulldozer confirmed his “impression [emphasis added] that there were no remains” of the ceramic workshop in Area B. Good grief! He used a bulldozer to excavate an area because it was his “impression” that it didn’t have significant finds beneath the ground. I sincerely hope the bulldozer didn’t destroy the workshop during its fact finding mission. In any event, after the bulldozer excavation, Prof. Goren says he closed Area B. He then ends his defense by saying that they are continuing their excavations at Areas A and C on the Tel. Incredibly, this is what he has to say about the future excavations: “Needless to say, with no tractors or the like”. I’m not kidding, this is a quote. He promises that in the future he will use Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), rather than tractors, “in order to locate the lost ceramic workshop”. Does this make any sense? If he finds bulldozers such an effective tool of archaeology, why is he promising online readers that in the future he is not going to use “tractors or the like”? It’s all too bizarre.

For all those who care about the archaeology of Israel, at least we now have this to be thankful for. Prof. Goren has moved from bulldozers to GPR.

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