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Digging up history at Jerusalem's City of David




Foreign tourists visit on January 11, 2011 the archeological site of the biblical City of David located in the mostly Arab Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan (background).
Foreign tourists visit on January 11, 2011 the archeological site of the biblical City of David located in the mostly Arab Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan (background).
MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images

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The upcoming USA series, "Dig," created by Gideon Raff, is a fictional drama about archaeology in Jerusalem. But there's plenty of real life drama in the world of archaeology there, especially at a dig site called the City of David.

It's one of the biggest tourist attractions in Jerusalem and it's become a flashpoint in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. 

The dig extends into a Palestinian neighborhood of East Jerusalem, and sits in the shadow of some of the the holiest sites for Muslims and Jews, the Al Aqsa mosque and the temple mount.

Archaeologist Raphael Greenberg of Tel Aviv University said the field of archaeology in Jerusalem has never been an impartial science. Ever since the first archaeologists came from Europe to dig up the city's past, the puzzle of history has been interpreted through the ideas and beliefs of the people holding the shovel.

Now, the Israeli Antiquities Authority, which oversees archaeological digs in the country, has turned over the City of David site to an organization called Elad, which has a strong ideological objective to stake a biblical claim to ancient parts of the city and resettle those areas with Jews.

Greenberg said it is important for archaeologists to recognize their own bias as they uncover and present the past and for everyone at the negotiating table to be open to the other side's interpretation of history.