Skip to content

Religious Studies in the News

Erin Darby leaves for NEH Fellowship in Jerusalem

This past year Erin Darby was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship to support her research residency at the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, in Jerusalem Israel. The first phase of this research was supported by a UT Professional Development Award during the summer of 2014 and is largely responsible for the success of Erin's NEH application. 

While at the Institute from February through May, Erin will be analyzing  archaeological materials from the site of 'En Hazeva, in Israel's southern Negev desert. The site has been excavated intermittently  since the 70's, but the remains have never been published, save for cursory reports. Nevertheless, Hazeva has featured prominently in several important scholarly debates, including the development of national identity and border regions in Israel and Edom during the Iron Age, the development and fortification of the Negev desert during this time period, and the identification of "ethnic markers" that might distinguish between Israelite and Edomite populations. 

Most significantly for Erin, the site produced an extramural shrine deposit. Though some of the objects from the deposit have been published, previous publications focus only on the iconography of the objects and their purported ethnic/national origin rather than their archaeological context. But only by situating "religious" objects within their spatial and architectural context can we really understand how such objects might have been used and by whom. Even more, without a clear analysis of all the data available, these objects cannot be wielded to identify "Israelite" or "Edomite" ethno-religious identity.

In order to better understand religious identity in this border region, Erin will continue her work coordinating excavation records, identifying artifacts from the site, comparing the site's material culture to that of other sites in the region, and situating the cultic objects within the history of occupation at Hazeva itself. The goal is to produce a far  more nuanced picture of lifeways, including religious practice, at Hazeva and in the larger border region of which it is a part. This research will form part of Erin's next monograph, a forthcoming edited excavation report, and a series of articles. Near the end of her fellowship Erin will present the conclusions of this next phase of research in public lectures at various locations, including at the Albright Institute ,the 10th International Congress for the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East in Vienna, Austria, and the International Conference on the History and Archaeology of Jordan, in Amman Jordan. 

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.