Archaeology and nationalism

A range of sites looking at issues of nationalism, ethnicity, and culture history, and the uses to which archaeology has been put in their name.

Ethnicity in Archaeology
An introduction to ethnicity by Kris Hirst, with links to a range of archaeological examples. There's also a useful collection of links to Ethnic Studies from the same source, too.

The Archaeology of Zenophobia
An article by Arta Khakpour about twenty-first century right wing reactions in the West to all things Muslim, drawing an alarming parallel with the early views expressed by Adolf Hitler. Published in the Brown Daily Herald at Brown University.

City of David
Page of links particularly relating to the role of archaeology at the City of David in Jerusalem.

The End of History
An article in The Guardian in which Dan Cruickshank talks of his visit to Israel and the occupied territories and the destruction of the historical buildings in places like Nablus, Hebron, and East Jerusalem. His visit formed the basis of a BBC documentary which, oddly given the precedence given to similar documentaries on Iraq, does not appear on the BBC website ...

Identity Under Siege
An article by Paul de Rooij about the assault on Palestinian identity, including the destruction of their archives and cultural treasures by the Israeli Defence Force. An earlier article, "Sharon's Wall", by Michael Ladah, talks about how ancient and historical sites are being affected by the construction of the Israeli security wall on the West Bank. Both articles are published in CounterPunch - a bi-weekly newsletter which prides itself on its "muckraking with a radical attitude". Details of the security wall can be found on the B'Tselem website, which belongs to the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

Historic Nablus
A number of observers have commented on the damage done to the historic city of Nablus by the Israeli Defence Force. For example, in a sequence of articles in the Art Newspaper (unfortunately now in their subscription-only archive), Jean-François Lasnier reported on the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage in Nablus in direct contravention of the 1954 Hague Convention (June 2002); his article provoked strong reactions particularly from Jews in the US (including a former director of the Israel Museum), and the Art Newspaper sent Robert Bevan (author of The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War) to investigate. His article (November 2002) largely confirmed the original reports as did Dan Cruickshank's report for the BBC (see above). Nevertheless, the Art Newspaper was accused of anti-semitism in its coverage (see, for example, an editorial in the New York Art World). However, the criticisms have continued, for example in the article by Shadia Touqan (2007). The Palestine National Committee of ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites) submitted a report on Palestinian heritage sites at risk, which covers both Nablus and Bethlehem and includes images of the damage caused by the events in 2002. The World Archaeological Congress has also been critical.

The mysterious death of Dr Glock
An article in The Guardian about the shooting of an American archaeologist in 1992. He opposed the Zionist view of using archaeology to underpin biblical tradition and hence claims to Palestine, but the reason for his killing seems mired in conspiracy theories involving both sides of the Israel/Palestine dispute.

A summary of the site, covering its history and the archaeological evidence of its structures and artefacts.

A summary of the site, together with a couple of forward links by Kris Hirst of However, interpretations of the site differ. For example, Zionist activist movements such as BETAR-TAGAR which promote and represent the State of Israel and to defend Jewish interests, sees it as a symbol for freedom and independence. At least some of the archaeological evidence, for example, is open to question.

The Masada Myth
An article by Nachman Ben-Yehuda (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem) in which he describes the nature of the Masada myth, when it was created and why. It's based on his book, Masada Myth: Collective Memory and Mythmaking in Israel (1995) which you can access using your GUID via this link. Here's a review of Ben-Yehuda's book on the subject by Eric Meyers in the Archaeology magazine. There's also a critique of Josephus' account of Masada based on Yadin's excavations (though it is largely uncritical of the archaeological evidence) by Shaye Cohen

Masada - history and location
A brief outline of the history and significance to modern-day Israel of the fortress of Masada. Be aware that this is part of a larger site expressing a broad range of extreme Zionist views and anti-Islam rhetoric.

The Temple Mount
A website called the Temple Mount Archaeological Destruction, calling on the Israeli government to stop construction work being undertaken on the contested site. More background information as well as news is available.

Temple Mount
A series of views and background information about the Temple Mount (otherwise known as the Haram esh-Sharif) and accompanied by a wide range of associated links. Also includes information about excavations undertaken by Benjamin Mazar in the 1960s on the southern Temple Mount.

Jerusalem: the disputed city
A brief article by Kris Hirst of, with links to further information about the history and archaeology of Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem Archaeological Park
An interactive website with 3D reconstructions, timelines and tours of the historical city.

Afghanistan: at the crossroads of ancient civilisations
A BBC documentary in which Dan Cruickshank travels to Kabul to investigate what treasures remain and find out how Afghanistan's people have dealt with attempts to destroy their culture and national identity.

The Ahnenerbe
An article in German by Joachim Lerchenmueller about the 'Ancestral Heritage Society' which became an arm of the SS under Himmler. Their primary task was to seek archaeological evidence to support the Nazi expansionist programme and were associated with the ransacking of cultural treasures from conquered territories and experiments to demonstrate racial inferiority in the death camps. If your German isn't up to it, try this translation which, as it is an automatic one is very poor but should be enough to get the gist ...

The Policy of Blood and Mysticism
An article in the Russian newspaper Pravda about the discovery of some human remains in the Ukraine thought to be related to the activities of the Ahnenerbe's medical experiments. Includes a summary background history of the organisation.

Deutches Ahnenerbe
A strange mixture of images concerned with the symbolism and a number of the individuals associated with the Ahnenerbe. The site offers a range of items for sale - mixed in amongst all this is a useful summary of some of the historical background of the Ahnenerbe, but one which rather avoids some of their later activities. The website belongs to Germania International which specialises in the sale of military collectibles from Germany's past.

Archaeology as a Political Tool
Part of a larger article on archaeology and war, this section looks at the relationship between archaeology and nationalism, using examples ranging from Nazi Germany, the Near East, Greece and Macedonia, and others. Part of the Why Files from the University of Wisconsin.

Antiquities as symbolic capital in modern Greek society
A paper in Antiquity by Yannis Hamilakis & Eleana Yalouri on the use of archaeology and antiquities for political purposes by different interest groups. You'll need to access this from a University computer as it requires the Library 's  online subscription, or else go to the Library for the full text of the article ...

Ethnicity and Nationalism: Anthropological Perspectives
Chapter 1 (entitled "What is Ethnicity?") of a book by Thomas Hylland Eriksen.

Who were the Aryans?
A short article by Kris Hirst ... also has a bibliography on the origin of races ...