cover image Under Jerusalem: The Buried History of the World’s Most Contested City

Under Jerusalem: The Buried History of the World’s Most Contested City

Andrew Lawler. Doubleday, $32.50 (464p) ISBN 978-0-385-54685-0

Journalist Lawler (The Secret Token) explores in this sweeping account the complicated history of archaeological digs in Jerusalem. Ranging from imperialistic expeditions in the 19th century, when explorers competed in a “race to stake a claim to Jerusalem’s past,” to allegations that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government used archaeology “as a legitimizer for the state,” Lawler’s colorful narrative includes aristocrats, scientists, charlatans, and clerics who searched for the “authentic place of Jesus’s death and resurrection,” sought to uncover the remnants of the ancient City of David, and tried to find the Ark of the Covenant, among other archaeological treasures. He vividly describes early explorers navigating mud- and sewage-laden tunnels to “recover the biblical secrets locked beneath the Holy City,” and incisively untangles the contentious geopolitical dimensions of ancient history as modern-day Israelis and Palestinians use archaeological analysis to bolster their political viewpoints and territorial claims. Richly detailed, sensitively argued, and entertainingly written, this immersive history casts Jerusalem in a new light and reveals the tensions that meet at the intersection of science, politics, religion, and history. This fascinating, evenhanded chronicle is a treasure. Agent: Ethan Bassoff, Ross Yoon Agency. (Nov.)