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November 11, 2001 Books

Books in Brief: 'Sacred Geography'

By SUZANNE MACNEILLE


Related Articles
Books in Brief: 'One Scandalous Story' (Dec 16, 2001)
Books in Brief: 'About the Author' (Oct 7, 2001)
Children's Books: 'Everywhere Babies' (Sep 16, 2001)
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  Anthropology and Archaeology
  Social Sciences
 
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The American archaeologist Albert Glock worked in the Middle East for more than two decades -- long enough to temper any romantic delusions about his profession. ''Archaeology, as everything else, is politics,'' he wrote, ''and my politics'' are those ''of the losers.'' In 1992, the 67-year-old Glock was gunned down in the West Bank. In the lucidly written and historically instructive ''Sacred Geography,'' Edward Fox, a London-based journalist, explores the mysteries surrounding the death of Glock, who as a founder of the archaeology department at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank had wanted to establish an archaeological program that would emphasize the Palestinian presence. In the Middle East, Fox points out, archaeological discoveries have long been used to bolster political and religious claims. In an atmosphere in which archaeologists sometimes carried guns, and entire layers of history -- often related to the region's Islamic past -- were literally bulldozed away, Glock, a scholarly Lutheran, inspired admiration among his students, suspicion and vandalism among the Palestinians who lived near his excavations and suspicion, too, among some Israeli authorities, who viewed him as a ''troublesome intellectual.'' Was Glock the target of an undercover Israeli operation? Or was a Palestinian group incensed that an American led what should have been a Palestinian endeavor? Was his death, perhaps, the work of a disgruntled colleague? Fox's pursuit of the answers offers a penetrating look into biblical archaeology -- one more arena where the troubled politics of the Middle East are played out.



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