Monday, July 12, 2010

Interpreting Evidence and O. J. Simpson

     From about 5:00 a.m. until almost 1:00 Monday through Friday I could be found digging up on Area A, part of an ancient city famous as one of the Decapolis cities mentioned in the New Testament. As I mentioned earlier, we were digging down through layers and layers of history and time. We were trying to ascertain what life had been like in this city over the thousands of years of its existence, studying the layers of dirt which offered up clues of major disasters like earthquakes, fires, and floods. In several of my squares I could literally see the black layers of dirt and ashes from long ago fires; and then from early writers such as Josephus, we knew of two major earthquakes that had occurred in the region. Several times the city of Abila had been destroyed in places, knocked on its ass, so to speak (note that this is not an archaeological term, of course). So I'm filling up goofas full of dirt all day, sifting through rubble, finding potsherds and what not from different archaeological occupational periods, wiping sweat from my brow and trying not to think. By now I am majorly missing my daughter (I talk to her once every weekend, as phone calls to the U.S. from Jordan at this time are expensive and difficult to make from the local pay phones), plus I'm counting down the weeks and days we have left before we can call it quits for this dig season! I'm not completely miserable. I mean, I am having some fun, but it is taking a toll on me.

     Unfortunately, this summer will go down in infamy for a lot of Americans. We have  just recently heard that O. J. Simpson has been accused of allegedly killing his ex-wife (the mother of his 2 children), Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. How embarrassing it is to be an American right now. That blasted TV is killing our reputation! In surreal fashion I got to watch on Jordanian T.V. (in Irbid of all places!) a low-speed 50 mile police chase of Simpson in his white Ford Bronco traveling along the Los Angeles freeways for hours on end until he finally stopped in Brentwood where he lived at the time. This once famous American iconic football star was making world news headlines, not only in the US, but in all the foreign presses as well, and what could any of us say? Stop it; you're embarassing me! Of course this case will drag on for months and months, and what will eventually be even more embarrassing is that O. J. will get off; he'll walk away scot free from a double murder. Even with all the DNA evidence, the bloody socks, the 15 inch German-made knife, the size 12 Bruno Magli shoes, the carpet fibers, the hair strands, the 9-1-1 calls from Nicole, and all the testimonies concerning spousal abuse and her deadly fear of O. J., he will be acquitted. Which just goes to prove that digging through layers of shit to get to the truth does not always get the results you might expect. I guess it depends on how you read the evidence, how you talk it up and present it, which was a lot like what Bill Dever was arguing about in terms of biblical archaeology when he said that bible thumping archaeologists were embarrassing him and other "real" academics with all their so-called "proof" that the Bible must be true! They just saw what they wanted to see and made their interpretations fit!

     This same theory could apply to anything or anyone, though, really. We each of us just see what we want to see, believe what we want to believe. Even with all the evidence shouting something completely to the contrary. We come upon something potentially interesting, and like archaeologists (or criminal investigators) we do an initial "surface survey." This is the outward, topmost layer of what we're  investigating, what we're looking at, what's easily visible to the naked eye. But when we start digging, we start to unearth artifacts that belong to earlier times, layers that may eventually show evidence of violence, of destruction. Evidence that life may have been turned upside down, smacked on its ass. Evidence of something so majorly catastrophic, that without having dug through the layers would have never even been discovered. Wow! And then there's the stuff we find. What do we do with it? Do we keep it or throw it out? What if it's been tainted? Do we cover it back up? How do we interpret it? What if we're wrong? What if we find out something we don't want to know? What if it suggests something contrary to what we initially believed? What then? Sometimes, and maybe just sometimes, we shouldn't go digging. And then maybe sometimes digging is what's absolutely necessary, and truth, well, it is what it is! Nobody said we had to like it.