Sunday, May 13, 2012

Oriental Candy

In response to my previous post about the funds raised mostly in 1928 by Elihu Grant (Prof. of Biblical Literature, Haverford College) to excavate Beth Shemesh, Jordan Wilson guessed $15,000, & Todd Bolen guessed $3,000. (Thanks, by the way, for participating guys!) If I had thought anyone was going to respond ("Oh me of little faith"), I would've taken the time to provide some additional background on the subject.

Unfortunately I cannot put those guesses in complete perspective with today's excavation funding, because such information is not openly disclosed for most excavations, plus it's important to note that most modern excavation participants are either volunteers who happen to live near the site, or they pay their own way to travel there & pay extra to participate. Rarely do excavators hire workers to perform the actual digging like they did in the early 20th century. But here are some tidbits & snippets to get us in the ballpark of funds expended on modern excavations:

Seven minutes into a lecture delivered earlier this year by the excavator of Ekron, Sy Gitin estimated that it would take about "several million dollars in 20 years" to fund a dig, which reduces to about $200,000 annually assuming 4 for the word "several".

Not a direct correlation to dirt-based digs in Israel, but according to a report on National Geographic, it takes about $150,000 per season to fund the work at the Queen Anne's Revenge shipwreck, situated off the North Carolina coast.

According to the IAA's public disclosure for 2007, they conducted 337 archaeological excavations using a budget of 155 million NIS, which translates roughly to 40 million USD using today's conversion rate. Note that not all of that budget was for excavation, nor are salvage excavations comparable to full-scale ones, but the average comes to about $100,000 per site.

In a privately distributed mailing list for the privately funded Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project, Chief Archaeologist Dr. Steven Collins reported that it would cost about $100,000 just to perform Carbon-14 analyses on excavated material (message sent Fri 2/24/2012 9:21 AM).

In a comment posted on the Bible Places blog, Daniel M. Wright reported that the customized camera boom used in the Talpiot tomb exploration cost about $50,000 (not counting the $120k cameras on loan from GE, nor any of the other expenses associated with the work).

Note that the funds mentioned below by Elihu Grant were raised during the economic boom preceding the decade-long Great Depression. He wrote this letter just a few months before the stock market crashed!

"Dear Dr. Field:- Your spirit has been a help. I am leaving the book you so kindly ordered with Mr. Hoopes, also please accept these others which I have published privately while at Haverford. They give some idea of my style and effort. I have had to do certain services which have not been wanted by the many and these oriental studies have been my candy."

"I feel that with the issuance of 'Beth Shemesh' a chapter closes. I have enough materials for another volume but this will do for the time. When you realize that all this pother is about a ten-weeks campaign in the field-work of excavations with a very slim staff and that it is taking all this time to catch up, even so far, you will say it isn't bad."

"Have you seen the enclosed by Dr. W. F. Albright our leading expert in the field?  'Time' magazine gave archaeology in the Near East a very good 'hand' a few months back. Mr. Hoopes has a copy. He and several have been most kind. An accommodation, or a little boost, at a critical moment has often come along to make the impossible possible in any sense."

"You asked me about the income for such adventures & I append a statement."

"The new chapter is to open July 1, and I am on tiptoe to see how."


"Elihu Grant"

"May 2. '29"


"Receipts for the First Expedition to Beth Shemesh"

"Oct. 10. 1927 an anonymous letter from a Haverfordian probably contained hearty expressions of interest and -> $25"

"Between that date and Jan 1. 1929 there has been received for lectures by the Director 185."

"From neighbors in Haverford & Westchester 120."

"From Managers & Grads. 245"


The format of this page aligned the numbers so you could see the sum of 25+185+120+245.

I was not able to positively identify the addressee (Dr. Field) or Mr. Hoopes, but there was a John Robison Hoopes, who was the 1921 Student Association President at Haverford College. I found records of several other alumni named Hoopes, so I have no way of knowing if this one was working in a Haverford bookstore in 1929.

The other books that Grant referred to as reflecting his "candy" may have included:

  • The Peasantry of Palestine, 1907
  • The Bible as Literature : An Introduction, 1916
  • Cuneiform Documents in the Smith College Library, 1918
  • The Orient in Bible Times, 1920
  • The People of Palestine, 1921
  • A New Era In Palestine Exploration, 1922

His reference to Time was "Science: Diggers", published Nov. 19, 1928.

G.M. Grena

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