Thursday, May 10, 2007

Remapping the Innocents

I'm in the Caribbean and only in intermittent contact with the Internet, but as a long time follower of archaeology, I was fascinated to get a press release from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs announcing the discovery of King Herod's tomb.

However, as I read the description and the news reports, there was a huge and noisy silence about one issue. The discovery was not in Israel.

The Herodium, the palace, fortress and tomb are firmly on the wrong side of the Green Line, in the occupied West Bank. I rather suspect that the Palestinians, especially Hamas, will be too worried about this evidence of "Jewish" presence to make sufficient fuss about it, which is ironic in that contemporary Jews were far from convinced about Herod's genuine Jewishness.

But here is Israel, once again, in flagrante delicto, as Herod's Roman patron's would say, looting cultural patrimony from the territories. At the very least the PA should be insisting that any significant finds stay on the site. But will they?

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