By Colin Pummel
Jordan is a small, peaceful Muslim country comfortably nestled between Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Israel, and Syria - which is to say, it is not comfortable at all. Despite the years of unrest and war between and within many of the surrounding nations, Jordan has remained peaceful and neutral for decades and has been a safehouse of sorts for archaeologists in the region. Additionally, Jordan’s Queen Rania has started a program for renewed historical and archaeological preservation in light of the actions of Syria’s Daesh destroying archaeological sites and historical landmarks. This past June, Glorianne Besana and I traveled to Jordan with an archaeological group from La Sierra University as part of an inter-university program excavating a site called Tall al ’Umayri. As a person aspiring to become an archaeologist and a history major here at Pacific Union College, I came across some questions about the nature of our education program and some of its limitations with regard to parts of the world like Jordan and the greater Middle East.
As a person interested in the study of archaeology and intending to go on to graduate school in that field, I realized that the Adventist collegiate system has relatively limited options. While some of our colleges and universities undeniably have excellent programs in archaeology, PUC does not offer even an introductory course. It would be impractical to suggest that this school offer an entire degree in archaeology, but an introductory course on the topic would certainly garner interest from the student body and would be helpful in particular to the history department for creating a scientific basis from which to build concepts of history that are not explicitly written.
All archaeology programs within the Adventist education system are a part of the theology department, which severely limits the area of study. In an ideal world, an archaeology program should be in direct cooperation with any given school’s history department for the mutual betterment of both fields, as they are so closely related. Basing archaeology classes and general study in theology restricts the topics to Israel and the lands otherwise mentioned in the Bible. Additionally, the tie to the religious and bureaucratic aspects of Adventism inhibits an archaeology department from publishing conclusions based on their discoveries if they differ in even the slightest from the official Adventist belief in a young Earth.
Finally, within history departments in many American schools, Middle Eastern culture and history is either entirely overlooked or mentioned only in passing during sweeping world history classes. This has led to a state of ignorance within American society in general, and while PUC is lucky enough to have one of the most diverse campuses in the country with an excellent record of social acceptance, it is not an accurate representation of the state of affairs within the nation as a whole. With the rise of Daesh and Islamic extremism, Islamophobia is at a high in the United States, and this fear comes out of ignorance of beliefs and history. The best way to combat hatred is through understanding, and understanding can only be achieved through fair education.
Image Courtesy of Logee Photography & Madaba Plains Project