Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Insider: Publish or Be Punished Volume 60 Number 2, March/April 2007
by Roger Atwood

Israel cracks down on delinquent diggers.


Since the year 2000 there has been very little digging at Ashkelon. The Israel Antiquities Authority, or IAA, which has final say over all archaeological activity, has declined to grant Harvard archaeologist Larry Stager and his team a digging license since then, except for one covering a small area in 2004. The reason: The IAA believes the project has not published enough.

The Ashkelon project is not alone. At least in public, the IAA has taken a tougher line than almost any other national authority in the Mediterranean. In paralyzing the Ashkelon dig, it has shown a willingness to stop exceptionally well-financed, internationally known projects.

The IAA's crackdown has forced archaeologists to break old habits and learn better ones, often late in their careers. Many say it was long overdue.

"I've seen archaeologists who do beautiful work. They're wonderful excavators but then they never publish, and because they don't write, it's as if they had never excavated," says Seymour Gitin, director of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem.

Roger Atwood's book Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World is now out in paperback.

© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America