National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Andrea Berlin

Affiliation: Boston University

Professor Andrea M. Berlin is the James R. Wiseman Chair in Classical Archaeology at Boston University. She received an MA in Syro-Palestinian Archaeology from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, and a Ph.D. in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. She has been excavating in the eastern Mediterranean for over thirty years, working on projects from Troy in Turkey to Coptos in southern Egypt to Paestum, in Italy. Her field of expertise is the Near East from the time of Alexander the Great through the Roman era, about which she has written four books and over forty articles. Professor Berlin is especially interested in studying the realities of daily life, and in exploring the intersection of politics and cultural change in antiquity. She is one of the Archaeological Institute of America’s most accomplished teachers and lecturers, having travelled to over 60 societies across the United States and Canada, most recently as the AIA’s 2008 Joukowsky Lecturer. In 2009 she was awarded the AIA’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.  Professor Berlin was an AIA Norton Lecturer for 2018/2019.


What is the real story behind the animosities that eventually led to the catastrophe of the Jewish Revolt against Rome? Why would a small population without military capabilities or political allies dare to challenge a ruling power of such might? New archaeological evidence reveals a growing cultural divide beginning about two generations before the Revolt broke out, and sheds new light on the prehistory of this explosive event. This lecture will begin with the constructions of Herod the Great and his sons, with a focus on the the places that he built to impress his patrons. The appearance and character of some of those buildings created the conditions that led Jews throughout the land to band together more intensively and eventually persuade some to organize against Rome.

Short bibliography on lecture topic:

Andrea M. Berlin, “Power and Its Afterlife: Tombs in Hellenistic Palestine.” Near Eastern Archaeology 65.2 (2002). Pp. 138-48.

Andrea M. Berlin and J. Andrew Overman, eds. The First Jewish Revolt: Archaeology, History, and Ideology. Routledge, London: 2002.

Andrea M. Berlin.  “Jewish Life Before the Revolt: The Archaeological Evidence,” Journal for the Study of Judaism 36.4 (2005). Pp. 417-70.

Andrea M. Berlin  “Identity Politics in Early Roman Galilee,” The Jewish Revolt Against Rome: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism vol. 154. M. Popović, ed. Brill, Leiden (2012). Pp. 69-106.

Recently completed excavations at Tel Kedesh, the largest mound in Israel’s Upper Galilee, have brought to light an enormous, and heretofore unknown, commercial and administrative building, first constructed in the later sixth century BCE and used for the next 350 years. During this time, the region was under the control of three different imperial regimes: the Achaemenid Persians; the Ptolemies of Egypt; and the Seleucids of Syria. In each period, the large complex at Kedesh provided a stage for interactions between imperial powers, provincial administrators, and local elites. Our discoveries include glass and stone seals that show the Phoenician embrace of Persian styles; store rooms with jars containing an experimental strain of wheat; reception rooms and dishes reflecting rural knowledge of cosmopolitan lifestyles; an archive with over 2000 clay bullae depicting Greek and Phoenician deities as well as symbols and images used by elite individuals; and an enormous, solid gold coin – the largest and earliest ever found in Israel – whose appearance at Kedesh allows us a bird’s-eye view of power diplomacy in the early second century BCE. Both Phoenicians and Jews had starring roles in the life of the administrative building at Kedesh, and this lecture brings their character and interactions to life.


Short bibliography on lecture topic:

Andrea Berlin and Sharon Herbert, “Excavating Tel Kedesh: The Story of a Site and a Project,” Archaeology 65.3 (2012), pp. 24-29.

Andrea Berlin and Sharon Herbert, “Life and Death on the Israeli-Lebanese Border (in 140 B.C.E.): Excavating Tel Kedesh,” Biblical Archaeology Review 31.5 (2005). Pp. 35-43.

The Kyrenia ship, so named when it was discovered in 1964 largely intact one mile north of the northern Cypriot town of Kyrenia, is the best preserved small Greek merchant ship ever found. Its cargo included 400 amphoras, most from Rhodes along with some from Knidos, Samos, Paros, and Cyprus, 45 sizeable unused millstones, iron ingots, nearly 10,000 almonds, a consignment of oak planks and logs – and 109 whole and fragmentary vessels that comprised the goods of the crew. The cargo was of course the point: it’s the currency of the sea. The goods of the crew are more like small change: portable, available, and functional. But those goods allow us a glimpse of life on board for the ship’s crew’s. In this lecture I present these goods, explain what they tell us of the place and date of the ship’s final departure, what they tell us about the character of the ship’s crew – and what some of the smallest fragments reveal of the ship’s beginnings before it became a Greek merchantman.


Short bibliography on lecture topic:

Susan Katzev, “The Kyrenia Ship: Her Recent Journey,” Near Eastern Archaeology 71 (2008), pp. 76-81.

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