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Digging for History

ANNOUNCER: Funding for THINK TANK is provided by the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Foundation; the Smith Richardson Foundation; the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; and, by Marilyn Ware.
BEN WATTENBERG: Hello, this is Ben Wattenberg in Israel. Weíre on the Mount of Olives and thatís Jerusalem, a vast historical argument rages here about of all things archeology.
The living history here in Jerusalem is only rivaled by what may exist just below the surface. Israeli archeologist, Dr. Eliat Mazar [phonetic], joins us to talk about her excavations at the ancient city of David. And Professor Haneed Nour El Deen [phonetic], of Al Kud [phonetic] University of Jerusalem offers a more skeptical take in Biblical archeology. The topic before the house: Digging for history this week on Think Tank.
Jerusalem this ancient site still attracts a massive influx of tourists and pilgrims looking to connect with history. At the City of David, excavations of the beginnings of Jerusalem are being unearthed by a renowned Israeli archeologist and professor, Dr. Eliat Mazar.
Shalom, Eliat Mazar, welcome to Think Tank. You are a world renowned archeologist. Tell me something about your background and experience and life in this field.
INTERVIEWER: I guess this is something very -- quite a simple story. Because my grandfather, he is a very very prominent archeologist. And he got this good nature of getting us his grandchildren -- get involved -- and his enthusiasm was just catching.
And he took us to see places as the archeologists came to his house to discuss their finds. We were there. We listened, we took part in the seminars. And went all over Israel to see all the discoveries. So, itís very -- itís catching, you cannot avoid it.
INTERVIEWER: What are you doing now? You have a big announcement. Tell us whatís going on here.
PROF. MAZAR: We excavated the City of David for quite a while. Itís the fourth year excavations at the very top of the City of David. Itís the very ancient core, the very beginning of Jerusalem.
Itís in an area that is not that much visited today. But this is the most important. Itís the place where Jerusalem existed two thousand years before King David even dreamt of --
INTERVIEWER: Itís a four thousand year old site, 3500 - 4000 years.
PROF. MAZAR: Only 5000 years. On the excavations we found rooms from -- dating back as five thousand years ago, early Bronze Age.
But then from the four thousand years ago, we found fortifications, huge fortifications of Jerusalem, meaning that Jerusalem existed as a very well-fortified town at the center of the Judean Hills in the center of Israel as early as one thousand years before we even start talking about King David.
INTERVIEWER: The personality of David himself has fascinated people for a long time. He comes from -- to Jerusalem from the country. Heís --
PROF. MAZAR: From Kebron [phonetic].
INTERVIEWER: From where, Kebron?
INTERVIEWER: Heís a shepherd.
PROF. MAZAR: Heís a warrior more than -- at that time.
INTERVIEWER: The story is he was a shepherd.
PROF. MAZAR: Right, in the beginning.
INTERVIEWER: And you have this -- Iíve always found this incredible notion that hereís this allegedly uneducated rural boy and writes perhaps the most beautiful bit of lyric poetry in the history of the world: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He leadeth me through still valleys.
Itís -- and then he becomes a fairly bloodthirsty general in a difficult time --
PROF. MAZAR: Well, if youíre asking --
INTERVIEWER: I donít know bloodthirsty, thatís relative but the story is that he was more ferocious than his mentor King Saul.
PROF. MAZAR: The thing is that a -- when it comes to archeology you need facts. And you need the real thing. Okay, legends are very beautiful but itís not the territory today [unintelligible].
INTERVIEWER: As a Biblical archeologist in Jerusalem, Dr. Mazar has been in a unique position to use clues from the Old Testament combined with the artifacts and terrain. Her work points to what may be one of the most significant archeological finds in Jerusalem.
PROF. MAZAR: Well, Iíve been an archeologist in Jerusalem for so many years. There is a spot at the top of the City of David where a structure and -- pottery from the tenth century -- this is King Davidís time -- were found.
And there is a place which -- this place is so high and the only way you can go down from -- is from this place. And the bible describes that when King David heard were coming to attack him in Jerusalem, he went down to the fortress.
So, I said from the tenth century BC, King Davidís time -- and Biblical description saying that he went down to the fortress meaning that he was up from the place that he should have -- go down.
So, maybe he stayed in his house. The only thing I suggest to go back where these finds were found many years ago and search for the remains. If they are there, we find them. If they are not, we find something else, or maybe we wonít find anything.
And -- well I didnít succeed really -- get people interested until this fortunate time where people from the Shalin [phonetic] Center heard me and got enthusiastic about and they got the funds to make it come true, so we started excavating really quickly -- what seems to be very much so the remains of King Davidís palace.
INTERVIEWER: And we can see it now.
PROF. MAZAR: Yes, itís there. But itís so huge that I didnít think itís going to be that large ever. If youíre asking me is this shepherd can be the beggar that you are talking about, Iím telling you no, no way. Heís not a beggar, but he got allies just as the Bible describes. The Phoenicians they were the best allies of King David. They are the great builders.
And we know the Phoenicians because they excavate also Phoenician sites. And I know how well they know to build, how well. And the Bible describes very clearly that when King David became the King of all Israel, Phoenicians offered him to build his house and this is a Phoenician style of construction.
And what we are revealing now in Jerusalem -- these are -- this is a structure the Phoenicians built. I donít suspect King David to build by himself. No way.
INTERVIEWER: Am I correct in saying that the more you discover, the better a guidebook the Bible becomes.
PROF. MAZAR: Yes, sometimes very astonishingly so.
INTERVIEWER: You showed me before your hands. [Laughter] You actually go in and do whatever archeologist dig, is that right?
PROF. MAZAR: Well, thatís the -- the thing is [Inaudible - lot of background noise drowning her out] the Knesset to lecture here tonight and they [Inaudible - noise in background] and if you donít touch it [Inaudible] we are [Inaudible] youíre reading. So really touching and picking up the pottery and -- well, thatís the connection, thatís the real connection to the real thing.
INTERVIEWER: I mean youíve discovered things about Jerusalem, the story of Jerusalem. Itís a way of authenticating some of what we know from the Bible and from other literature and from histories of other people.
But here it has a political and even a geo political significance as I understand it. I mean there are many people on the Arab side who condemn the work youíre doing.
PROF. MAZAR: Well, you know, you are -- we are quite used to the fact that almost everything we do can be political. But archeology is science and itís a very demanding science and we should follow the rules and methodology in a very highly skilled levels.
INTERVIEWER: No, no, but I mean it tells a political story that has a relevance today. Thatís why youíre opponents, as I understand it, are saying itís not valid. Is that correct?
PROF. MAZAR: And this is something that is not acceptable, especially in Jerusalem. What we showed is very simple. That the evidence is there of the actual history --
INTERVIEWER: So the history is that the city goes back five thousand years and the Davidic begins, what a thousand years later --
PROF. MAZAR: Three thousand years ago.
INTERVIEWER: Three thousand years ago and that there has been continuous Jewish/Hebrew residence ever since?
PROF. MAZAR: Well, it -- first we speak about the specific period, about the -- around one thousand years ago BC, three thousand years ago. The time of King Solomon and David and we found structures of magnificent size and that chose great ability of construction and centralizations and leadership.
So, it for sure -- itís not a -- something that is a chief of a small village -- could have been built. So, weíre speaking about a completely different thing that needs to change in attitude.
Either itís King Davidís palace or not -- it shows a great ability. Itís not everybodyís work. Itís not just an important structure, it is something huge, very impressive, with a lot of pottery that relates to that period.
So, this absence of evidence doesnít exit any more. So, these people that are trying to ignore the evidence they should explain us why they do so.
INTERVIEWER: Down the hill form Dr. Mazarís dig we sat down with Palestinian archeologist and Professor Haneen Nour El Deen who is skeptical about Dr. Mazarís recent findings and skeptical too of the entire school of Biblical archeology in Israel.
PROF. AL DEEN: My name is Haneen Al Deen. Iím teaching at Al Kud University in [unintelligible] of archeology. I graduated from [unintelligible] university for my first degree and then I went to France and I took my MA and PHD.
INTERVIEWER: Professor Eliat Mazar says that on the hill up there, the City of David, she has uncovered the beginnings of what she believes to be King Davidís palace. Do you believe that?
PROF. AL DEEN: I just read her report and -- which is recently published in 2005 and I compared this with other sites and at the same time, I can say that also not myself, but even other archeologists are opposing to her idea, after the scientific or after the analyzing of the material and analyzing all the buildings she recovered.
Itís almost -- the thing is a question of objectivity. Is it objective or not. We have to go back and to see really the scientific -- the scientific proofs about this.
And I think -- I donít want to say myself this -- but the excavations and what the archeologists are talking about -- as myself also -- I donít really believe that itís dated back to the 10th Century.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, thatís stipulated. When it is uncovered, youíll be able to say she was wrong or she was right or she was part right. I mean weíll know more when itís uncovered. Yes?
PROF. AL DEEN: Yes, yes, you are right but she has her idea and her conclusions previous to her excavations. I believe in this.
INTERVIEWER: Let me ask you something else. Archeology in this area is intensely political.
PROF. AL DEEN: I think politics have been focused on this earlier. Not since now or not for -- from letís say ten years or 20 years, it to be in focus before 150 years or before that.
And you have seen that and we can also see that archeological studies has been focused on the Biblical narrations and the Biblical narrations has really composed its idea on letís say the performance of creating the state of Israel and its politics.
INTERVIEWER: So, the argument in a sense is who was here first, who owns the land, who has the birth right. I mean to put it simple -- simply -- thatís what -- the reason for the discussion.
PROF. AL DEEN: We are really complicating the problem. Always we are putting an obstacle. This is the ethnicity. Ethnicity and material culture is really a problem.
When you criss-cross or interfere the material culture with the ethnicity -- and this is the problem, which really as Biblical archeologists and other scholars began with -- early in the 12th Century -- they want to perform that you have many ethnicity in the country.
We can see that we have the 8th Century and the 7th Century -- whatís so-called Judea -- whatís so-called [unintelligible], whatís so-called [unintelligible].
And I just consider that this is a part of the Palestinian history, this is the history of Palestine.
INTERVIEWER: But also of the Hebrews?
PROF. AL DEEN: Itís -- what the name -- the problem that we are really changing the names -- we have to focus on the history.
INTERVIEWER: Was there at any point a Hebrew temple in Jerusalem? First temple, second temple?
PROF. AL DEEN: It should be existed somewhere a kind of letís say sacred place. But for myself -- for the first temple -- just we have no direct or indirect proof about it.
And even the second temple, whatís -- what we can see here I think itís a kind of fortress and itís a kind of part of the fortification system related back to the Roman period.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, thank you very much.
PROF. AL DEEN: Welcome.
INTERVIEWER: When the past is unearthed, answers may come. Already for Dr. Mazar and her team, the small artifacts have given insights into this crossroads of three great religions.
You recently discovered a certain seal, is that correct?
INTERVIEWER: Can you describe what it is? Can we see it and what significance does it have.
PROF. MAZAR: Well, we were very lucky to excavate a tower that was not excavated until today, but started to collapse and for many years it was believed that this is a Hash Manine [phonetic] from the second century BC.
And we started to excavate and realized that hundreds of finds just under the tower are not going later than the 5th Century BC. This is Nehamiahís time when he constructed the ruined walls of Jerusalem.
And as it turns out this tower from the Nehamiahís time and under it, among these hundreds of finds, we found this stone seal that describes a Babylonian scene and these people came from Babylon.
And just under this seal there is a Hebrew name, [unintelligible] and [unintelligible] is a family name of one of the families -- the workers -- the servants of the temple that came back from Babylon after being exiled there by the Babylonians.
And these [unintelligible] this is the Biblical term for these workers of the temple. One of the families [unintelligible] that is written on this seal, they lived in the [unintelligible] which is just the area near the place where we excavated.
And this is something that really got you astonished, like you can reveal structures that emphasize and shows ability or you know disability and the nature of living, whatever your will.
But it happens once in a while that it comes to be so mathematically [unintelligible] that you have a name that is mentioned in the Bible. Really it is such an assemblage that you cannot miss its dates, which is the date that the Bible describes.
INTERVIEWER: So the archeology of Jerusalem tends to explain and validate the Hebrew tradition and the beginning of the Christian tradition. The Muslims come along somewhat later. Mohammed lived in 700 AD, roughly.
PROF. MAZAR: Six hood thirty-eight, Jerusalem was conquered by Muslims.
INTERVIEWER: So we see their history there as well.
PROF. MAZAR: Well, as it -- of course.
INTERVIEWER: Itís quite a place.
PROF. MAZAR: Yes. [Laughs] Itís a history of so many people.
INTERVIEWER: I havenít been to Israel in eight or nine years. It has grown so fast and so rapidly and it is so modern compared even to eight or nine years ago. Do you lose something with that intense modernization. Do you lose history, so you lose the sense of history.
PROF. MAZAR: I donít think so. The sense of history is very well-developed and I can see a new generation of archeologists. I myself do not consider it to be a young generation any more. And I see archeologists and they see so much that they still can do revealing ancient -- you know the history of Jerusalem.
SO, the sense of history and the archeology of Jerusalem -- now I know more than ever before that there is so much to be done. And of course revealing the history -- you know the archeology of Jerusalem is only going to give it a good balance for a better future.
I believe -- I think that many people do that itís better you understand your past -- the better you can claim your future. And we have so rich and interesting and past that we can be proud of.
INTERVIEWER: Let me ask you something else. In the general Jerusalem area, if a tourist comes here from America or Japan or the Arab world, what should he or she look at and for? What are the most interesting, revealing and significant places?
PROF. MAZAR: Itís a difficult question, but I would suggest if somebody got a short time in order to get the real impression is go to the City of David and the Temple Mount.
INTERVIEWER: What are some of the other examples?
PROF. MAZAR: Except the City of David and Temple Mount, I would suggest go to the Western hill of Jerusalem just to visit all around. You know Jerusalem is so -- even I myself when I visit neighborhoods which I do not have -- you know not usually visit -- the Jewish ultra orthodox -- they are neighbors, they have neighborhoods. The students say their [unintelligible] the Mount of Olives. Everywhere you go you see a different angle of Jerusalem and itís all the time.
INTERVIEWER: And in all of these places archeologists have been working to try to determine the history?
PROF. MAZAR: [Laughs] When you come to think of it there is archeology everywhere. And they -- itís just there. I mean as you build a new neighborhood in Jerusalem itís well-known among the constructors that there are you know facing archeology as they hit the ground.
And usually the call the antiquities authorities and the whole story starts, like excavation --
INTERVIEWER: Itís sorts of a great national hobby here, isnít it?
PROF. MAZAR: Itís everywhere.
INTERVIEWER: Archeology?
PROF. MAZAR: Yes because itís everywhere really. Itís not only the most important place for Jewish people and the Christians and Muslims in the world, but it turned out to be one of the most magnificent towns -- cities in the world that contains so much heritage, worldwide heritage for so many people.
So -- and therefore it should be very carefully kept and studied and be built in order to be -- to welcome so many people and to be studied as such.
INTERVIEWER: Okay Eliat Mazar thank you very much for joining us on Think Tank.
WATTENBERG: And thank you all. Please remember to send us your comments via email. We think it makes for a more interesting program. For THINK TANK Iím Ben Wattenberg.
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