“Remember, Archaeology Is NOT A Treasure Hung!” -- By: Gordon Franz

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 22:3 (Summer 2009)
Article: “Remember, Archaeology Is NOT A Treasure Hung!”
Author: Gordon Franz

“Remember, Archaeology Is NOT A Treasure Hung!”

Gordon Franz


Monday morning, July 30, 1979, is as clear in my mind as if it were yesterday. It was about 6AM when I arrived at the excavations below the St. Andrew’s Scottish Presbyterian Church, a site that would later be known as Ketef Hinnom, “the shoulder of Hinnom.”

The director of the excavation, Gabriel Barkay, known to his students and friends as Goby, asked me, “Gordon, how energetic are you?” I replied, smiling, “As energetic as could be.” “Good,” he said, “I want you to clean out that cave over there with three junior high Israeli students.” I was up to the challenge. As I headed for the cave, Goby confided, “By the way, the cave might be loaded. But remember, archaeology is NOT a treasure hunt.” Thus began one of the most interesting weeks of my life.

This was one of the first archaeological excavations I ever worked on, and now I was an area supervisor of three junior high Israeli students. I was about to receive a crash course with on-the-job training in Methodology of Archaeological Excavations 101, also known as How to Excavate a Burial Cave When You Don’t Know What You Are Doing. Fortunately, I was a quick learner and Goby was a great teacher.

Michael Luddeni

Dr. David Livingston at the burial caves at St. Andrew’s Scottish Presbyterian Church.

Burial Cave

The ceiling of the repository, the place where the bones and any burial gifts for the dead were deposited after the flesh had decayed, had collapsed, which suggested to Goby that there might be a sealed layer underneath with archaeological artifacts.

Goby instructed me to divide the cave into six quadrants and excavate one or two at a time. Goby stressed the importance of measuring all the objects that were found from their lowest point. I am glad I listened to him, because years later it would prove very important in the dating of the amulets found later.

Gabriel Barkay

Silver scroll amulet before unrolling.

During one of our breaks the first morning, Goby said to me, “Gordon, I want you to find me an inscription. If you do, I’ll give you a party.” I laughed because I knew from his Archaeology of Jerusalem classes that inscriptions in Jerusalem are very rare. Nevertheless, I half-jokingly said, “I’ll find you an inscription on the last day and in the last square.” Little did I know how prophe...

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