Shechem artifacts find home at Harvard Semitic Museum

Professor Emeritus Rev. Dr. Edward “Ted” Campbell stands as one of the few remaining members of the Drew-McCormick-Harvard Shechem excavation team that first set foot in the arid hill country of what is now the West Bank in 1957.

Professor Emeritus Rev. Dr. Edward “Ted” Campbell stands as one of the few remaining members of the Drew-McCormick-Harvard Shechem excavation team that first set foot in the arid hill country of what is now the West Bank in 1957. Campbell worked on the seven major excavations from 1957 until 1970 and then assumed a coordinating role after the passing of G. Ernest Wright of Harvard Divinity School.  Campbell provided oversight and direct involvement not only with the dig but also with collecting and publishing the data. Tireless in his efforts to support ongoing research of the Shechem artifacts, he now has committed his time to making the materials accessible to other archaeologists at the Semitic Museum at Harvard University.

“Scholars need to have a place where they can come to encounter the remains of an archaeological project and reassess them,” Campbell said. “We wanted to make the archives available so anyone can have access but also so that the second generation of research on the materials can continue.”

Although originally a collaborative project between McCormick, Drew University, and Harvard University, McCormick and Drew eventually recognized that they did not have the facilities to keep and maintain the Shechem archives. As the number of people who wanted to continue research on Shechem increased, it became necessary that one institution serve as the owner and custodian of the materials. Harvard seemed the logical choice, and by common consent, Harvard became the repository of the archives.

“Harvard is the institution of the three that has the capacity to provide the custodial maintenance as well as financial support for the project,” Campbell said.

Joseph Greene, Assistant Director of the Semitic Museum, remarks that the material collected at Shechem and now transferred to the university is relevant to the kind of teaching and research that Harvard will support long-term.

“Archival work makes artifacts meaningful, and having the artifacts fits into the plan to continue studying Shechem, since the work is never is finished,” Greene said. “As well, Ernest Wright ended his career at Harvard Divinity School so there are strong academic and sentimental connections to Shechem on our behalf.”

With the archives now stored in one central location, the original team’s plan to publish an exhaustive collection of volumes on the artifacts appears to be a growing reality. Campbell authored Shechem II and III of the four volumes published to-date. Nancy Lapp (Class of 1954), wrote Shechem IV, detailing the Persian and Hellenistic pottery findings. Five McCormick Seminary alumni will further contribute to the project, which will total seven or eight volumes by its completion.

Catherine Duff, studying at the University of Toronto, will publish Shechem V as her dissertation by the end of 2011. John Scott Holladay (Class of 1959) is completing a study of remaining pottery to be published as Shechem VI. Meanwhile, Jacob Moody at Andrews University, Michigan, is responsible for taking all findings that are not pottery and studying those to be compiled as Shechem VII. Work on the mountain above Shechem will be published as the eighth volume.

“Once you leave the field, the follow-up can last for years to get material published,” Campbell said. “As Professor Emeritus I have been able to work in official capacity for McCormick Seminary to ensure that a highly reputable institution takes on the work required to ensure publication.”

Students will not need to be on site or studying at Harvard to access the materials, but Campbell will be able to instruct the institution as to whom to designate for a particular study. The student will then follow a standard procedure of requesting the needed materials in order to do necessary chemical and physical analysis. When research is completed, all items will be returned to the repository at Harvard.

Campbell believes that the Shechem excavation will continue to shape the fields of archaeological and biblical studies in primarily two ways. Because of its location in the hill country of Palestine, it is one of the rare upland locations wherein the people had a law unto themselves and a different culture that can provide more knowledge about site in the biblical narrative. Shechem was also the geographic center of Samaria and provides key information about the northern kingdom and the background of the Samaritans.

“One of the key things working at Shechem raised for me as a scholar and teacher was the question, ‘How am I supposed to understand everything prior to and after the book of Joshua as well theology of the covenant?’” Campbell said, referencing Joshua 24 and the renewal of the covenant between Israel and God that occurred on the site. “The work on this site will always be ongoing.”


- by Jennifer L. Aycock