Department of Religious Studies

RS PhD Candidate Travels to Jerusalem for Research

Fri, March 27, 2015
RS PhD Candidate Travels to Jerusalem for Research
Living Room of an Early Roman Mansion in Jerusalem; photograph by Tony Keddie

As the Carol and Eric Meyers Dissertation Fellow, PhD Candidate Tony Keddie will travel to Jerusalem this summer to develop his dissertation research at the W. F. Albright Institute for Archaeological Research (AIAR). Established in 1900 as the American School of Oriental Research (ASOR), the institute was renamed in 1970 after the so-called “father of Biblical Archaeology,” and its most prominent director, William Foxwell Albright. Since its inception, the Albright Institute has been the foremost research institute for American scholarship on the history and archaeology of the Ancient Near East.

Throughout much of the twentieth century, scholars working at the “House That Albright Built” developed and advanced the discipline of Biblical Archaeology. In concert with Albright’s vision of a “scientific approach” to studying biblical texts in light of archaeological data, the pioneering biblical archaeologists tried to move beyond the apologetic tendency of 19th century archaeologists to use material evidence to prove the Bible, often as part of a Christian mission to the Jews. Nevertheless, many of these biblical archaeologists still sought to validate the Bible using material evidence and material evidence using the Bible, even if their new “scientific methods” prevented them from using the Bible as a virtual guide to history like their predecessors did.

In recent decades, American scholars at the Albright Institute have cultivated new approaches that do not prioritize biblical texts over archaeological evidence. Many would now do away with the idea of “Biblical Archaeology,” preferring instead “Near Eastern Archaeology,” or “Syro-Palestinian Archaeology” in order to emphasize that the discipline focuses on the diverse material imprints of various peoples and cultures from particular geographic regions. Instead of authenticating biblical texts and using archaeology to uncover history, many scholars working in this field now employ diverse methods to first interpret archaeological evidence and then, secondarily, to interpret biblical texts by drawing on insights from archaeological interpretation. No longer is it the norm to use archaeology to uncover a single, uniform truth in History and the Bible.

During his term as the Meyers Fellow, Keddie will participate in programs at the Albright Institute including lectures, study tours at archaeological sites in and around Jerusalem, and social events with other fellows and guest scholars staying at the Institute. In between events, Keddie will develop his own project, “The Archaeology of Inequality in Early Roman Judaea: Socioeconomic, Cultural, and Political Transformations.” In this portion of his dissertation research on the relationship between class and apocalypticism in Early Roman Judaism, Keddie will embrace the aforementioned methodologically diverse recent trends in archaeological interpretation in order to map out the subtle changes in class dynamics that characterized the first phase of Roman rule in Judaea. In particular, he is interested in analyzing evidence such as domestic architecture, tableware, oil lamps (see picture), and burial customs in order to identify shifting class distinctions. In his dissertation, Keddie will show how Jews in the period of Jesus’ ministry distinguished themselves according to class both through preferences of taste evident in the archaeological record and through political discourses in apocalyptic texts. 

Bookmark and Share