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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Bible, Map, and Spade: The American Palestine Exploration Society, Frederick Jones Bliss, and the Forgotten Story of Early American Biblical Archaeology
Hallote, Rachel

Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgias, 2006 pp. xiv + 220. $99.00

Description: In the usual retelling of the story of biblical archaeology in the nineteenth century, American achievements are rarely discussed. A common assumption is that between the 1850s and 1900, there was no American archaeological presence in Palestine. The narrative generally begins in the 1840s with the explorations of biblical scholar Edward Robinson, and then jumps directly to the founding of the American Schools of Oriental Research in 1900. The intervening half century is generally left blank, as British and European scholarship seemingly dominated the field. Yet, American involvement, although forgotten, was actually quite significant in those years and was the product of a unique fusion of Americaís religious and scientific sensibilities. Individual Americans played indispensable roles. This volume uncovers the neglected American presence in nineteenth-century biblical archaeology by focusing on a forgotten institution, the American Palestine Exploration Society, and a little-studied scholar, Frederick Jones Bliss. Based in New York, the American Palestine Exploration Society was strongly connected to the well known Syrian Protestant College (now the American University of Beirut). This vital connection launched the archaeological career of Frederick Jones Bliss, a lone American working for the British Palestine Exploration Fund. Because Bliss worked for the British for a decade, many later scholars downplayed his American nationality and sensibilities, as well as his scientific achievements. This volume brings Bliss and his American compatriots back to the forefront of the story, and explains why they have been so often left out. It also reinserts the presence of American religious agendas into nineteenth century biblical and archaeological studies.

Subjects: Methods, Historical Approaches, History, Archaeology, History of Interpretation

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Review by Eric M. Meyers
Published 2/23/2008
Citation: Eric M. Meyers, review of Rachel Hallote, Bible, Map, and Spade: The American Palestine Exploration Society, Frederick Jones Bliss, and the Forgotten Story of Early American Biblical Archaeology, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2008).

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