The manipulation of archaeology to rationalize exclusive nationalist and ethnic claims of primacy persist even as academic archaeology has become more scientific and fair in treating the heritage of all historic peoples inclusively. Such manipulation is especially apparent in the current conflict between Palestinians and Israelis over property rights in East Jerusalem. In the so-called Holy Basin ringing the Old City on its east traditional Arab communities are facing property confiscations and demolitions to make way for a theme park linking the ancient Israelite past to the modern Israeli present. This paper presents the case of the creation of the City of David as an archaeological park by the Elad settler organization in the mostly Palestinian community of Silwan. 

Professor in history and archaeology at Calvin College, Bert de Vries, is an archaeological architect. He works on sites in the Near East and counts studies of rural towns, churches, forts, baths, and agricultural landscapes among his favorites. Current research focuses primarily on Umm el-Jimal, a Roman-to-Islamic era town in north Jordan ( and also on the agricultural ecology of the Palestinian Highlands.

To give broader meaning to these specific field projects, he engages in collaborative interpretation of significant “moments” in Near Eastern history from the Paleolithic to the present, involving twenty Norwegian, Palestinian, and American scholars based at the University of Bergen: “Global Moments in the Levant.” A major underlying motive in this research is the question, “How do local people live, cope, and find security in the face of external forces ranging from the powers of empire to the necessities of environment?” This question enables him to use the past to comment on the present with frequent short articles on conflict, peace, and reconciliation in places like Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq.

Prof. de Vries likes to engage students by integrating this research into his courses and taking students out of the class room as research assistants and participants in field work.

This seminar is the third in the seminar series: Politics of Memory.

Contact: Nefissa Naguib

Venue: Bergen Resource Centre for International Development