Digging Up Armageddon: The Search for the Lost City of Solomon
At first glance, one would think that Dr. Eric H. Cline’s Digging Up Armageddon: The Search for the Lost City of Solomon was yet another exhaustive title discussing nothing but the archaeological discoveries unearthed from the ancient site of Tel Meggido, located to the North of Israel. Well, it isn’t.
Dr. Cline is an author, historian, archaeologist, and professor of history and archaeology at The George Washington University in Washington D.C., while also holding many other prestigious and related titles. Having digged at Megiddo himself (for 10 seasons), without a doubt, he is considered to be one of the most authoritative sources when speaking about the site.
Digging Up Armageddon provides an interesting perspective to not only the archaeology of the site but also the more modern history of its archaeological efforts. The reader is not only offered a glimpse into the site of the Tel and the history it tells through each stratum, but also, the drama that accompanied it. This is not your traditional history book.
The ancient site of Megiddo sat at the crossroads of the ancient world. Early human settlement of the site is said to go as far back as the 7th millennium BC. Since then, it caught the eyes of many nations and at one point in time, was under the control and influence of ancient Egypt. And why not? It was at the center of many trade routes of its time. It opened up Asia to the West and the Meditteranean to the East.
In the early 20th century (technically, 1925) and with the financial support of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the Oriential Institute of the University of Chicago, under the direction of the infamous American archaeologist, James Henry Breasted, began digging at the Tel and would continue their excavations for at least a couple of decades. Throughout the process, many history-making discoveries made the headlines across the globe.
It is obvious that Cline spent a significant amount of time in the archives of the Oriental Institute sifting through piles of memos, letters, diaries and wired telegraphs to piece together this single and cohesive narrative. He does an excellent job in capturing the emotions of the individuals [and teams] involved across two continents (i.e. North America and Asia). We are provided with a window into the grudges, frustrations, stresses, excitements and so much more during the Oriental Institute’s control of the site. The reader can get a sense of the inner turmoil with the amount of personnel turnover that occurs during brief periods and in some cases, within the same dig seasons.
The publication itself, while considered a subject of history, carries with it a lot of drama. Sadly, this type of drama is still prevalent in today’s excavations and Cline does a wonderful job in capturing the everyday life of the archaeologist.
A Book Review by Petros Koutoupis