Facts on the Ground Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society
by Nadia Abu El-Haj
University of Chicago Press, 2002
Cloth: 978-0-226-00194-4 | Paper: 978-0-226-00195-1 | Electronic: 978-0-226-00215-6


Archaeology in Israel is truly a national obsession, a practice through which national identity—and national rights—have long been asserted. But how and why did archaeology emerge as such a pervasive force there? How can the practices of archaeology help answer those questions? In this stirring book, Nadia Abu El-Haj addresses these questions and specifies for the first time the relationship between national ideology, colonial settlement, and the production of historical knowledge. She analyzes particular instances of history, artifacts, and landscapes in the making to show how archaeology helped not only to legitimize cultural and political visions but, far more powerfully, to reshape them. Moreover, she places Israeli archaeology in the context of the broader discipline to determine what unites the field across its disparate local traditions and locations.

Boldly uncovering an Israel in which science and politics are mutually constituted, this book shows the ongoing role that archaeology plays in defining the past, present, and future of Palestine and Israel.


Nadia Abu El-Haj is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago.


"Al-Haj's analysis of the political nature of archaeological practice is an incisive, penetrating, and persuasive discussion of how the past has been instrumental in the shaping of modern Israeli identity."
— Antiquity


List of Illustrations


Author's Note

1. Excavating Archaeology

2. Scientific Beginnings

3. Instituting Archaeology

4. Terrains of Settler Nationhood

4.1 Map of Palestine

5. Positive Facts of Nationhood

6. Excavating Jerusalem

7. Extending Sovereignty

7.1 The Old City of Jerusalem

7.2 Tower of David Museum: Ramparts and Archaeological Garden

7.3 Tower of David Museum: Early Islamic Room with Mih. r ab

7.4 Tower of David Museum: “Arab Arch” in the Archaeological Garden

7.5 Tower of David Museum: “Migdal David”

7.6 Design by Moshe Safdie for the Western Wall Plaza

7.7 Restored Crusader Cardo

7.8 Herodian Quarter: Basement-level Museum

7.9 Arch of the Hurva Synagogue

7.10 Jewish Quarter: “Old-New” Buildings

7.11 Minaret adjacent to Hurva’s Arch

7.12 “The Border”

8. Historical Legacies

8.1 Herodian Quarter Museum: Room Displaying Mosaic and Household Wares

8.2 Preserved Excavation Site

8.3 Ash: Evidence of Roman Destruction of Jerusalem in First Century c.e.

8.4 The “Secret Passage”

8.5 A Descriptive Panel

8.6 Model of the Herodian Temple with Muslim Quarter

8.7 Model of the Herodian Temple without Muslim Quarter

8.8 Chamber for Prayer

8.9 Chamber for Prayer

9. Archaeology and Its Aftermath

10. Conclusion