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Masada by Yigael Yadin
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Masada (1966)

by Yigael Yadin

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Masada : Herod's fortress and the Zealots' last stand by Yigael Yadin (1966, 256 pages, read Oct 13-16)
translated from Hebrew by Moshe Pearlman

It was entertaining to read this and right afterward read a book that trashes it. It's something of a classic as the excavation of Masada was apparently second only the King Tut in hoopla, or whatever the right word is. Also this is a fun read full of terrific pictures, even if they are now almost 60 years old.

So, why is it trashed? Because the interpretation a purely imaginative - I can't call it Yadin's imagination, he simply confirmed the popular Masada myth. But he had no evidence to do so. In Yadin's version we have a story of Jews who did everything they could to stand up to Rome, and here made their last stand, finally committing mass suicide, thereby depriving Rome of a real victory and making of themselves heroes of legend. His evidence is Josephus and his archeology. The story was very inspiring to all concerned with Israel's creation, especially those fighting, who felt they could relate to the suffering on Masada. The site of Masada is now an almost mandatory destination of tourists, and used heavily in Israeli military ceremony.

But...well..see Josephus doesn't talk about Zealots on Masada. In his story they were murderous loons called the Sicari who freely killed other Jews and anyone else to get at supplies they might need. Josephus notes the hundreds of woman and children they massacred at a nearby community in Ein Gedi. Their mass suicide may have been a sign of their inability to fight, and hence a sort of giving up. They could have fought to the death instead... Of course Josephus was a Jewish traitor, who joined the Romans, so maybe he's not all that reliable. But, he's the only source. And Yadin praises his accuracy!

And..well...there is a ruined palace on Masada (supposed built by King Herod as an escape, if necessary) and there is a Roman siege wall, and ramp and the Roman camps are still there. But there isn't much evidence about the Sicari or Zealots or whoever they were. Someone was up there and the Romans got them...but there isn't really any archeological evidence about who they were. (A few scraps of scrolls were recovered by Yadin, and these are of biblical writing.)

The last critical complaint is that this book was Yadin's only major publication on his findings here. His complete findings were never published during his lifetime. That's weird and unprofessional.

But, still, the myth and artifacts together are quite entertaining, even if we don't quite know what any of this means.

Posted on my LT thread here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/160515#4354974 ( )
2 vote dchaikin | Nov 7, 2013 |
An outstanding description of one of Israel's most important archaeological digs. There is a detailed description of the archaeological procedures, the volunteers, the site itself, its historical implications, and pictures of artifacts. I was able to visit Masada with this book in hand which contributed a great deal to the experience. ( )
  carterchristian1 | Apr 17, 2011 |
NO OF PAGES: 272 SUB CAT I: Archaeology SUB CAT II: History SUB CAT III: DESCRIPTION: Professor Yadin, the distinguished military leader and archaeologist, was invited to head the expedition to excavate Masada from 1963 to 1965. This is the account of that work.NOTES: SUBTITLE: A Momentous Archaeological discovery revealing the heroic life and struggle of the Jewish Zealots
  BeitHallel | Feb 18, 2011 |
NO OF PAGES: 256 SUB CAT I: Archaeology SUB CAT II: History SUB CAT III: DESCRIPTION: Yadin's book provides a unique opportunity to reconsider that period and to relive the last stand on Masada. The illustrations are chosen to inform and instruct and they provide an education in themselves. The colour, the production as a whole, makes this unquestionably the book of the year.NOTES: Donated by Mike Merryman. SUBTITLE: Herod's Fortress and the Zealots' Last Stand
  BeitHallel | Feb 18, 2011 |
This book was recommended by a friend while on a visit to Masada in Israel. I added the book to my list and finally checked it out from the library, a year after my trip. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this read and looked like a textbook, detailing the initial archeological dig of Masada several decades ago. There are many fantastic photos, and all major discoveries of the dig are highlighted, such as scrolls, coins, building structures, etc. It was also very interesting to read of the experiences of the excavators, all of whom were unpaid volunteers, very few with archeology experience. While this book was very informative, I would only recommend it to several specific groups of people - archeology enthusiasts, those interested in Biblical or Jewish history, and those traveling to Masada. The book is out of print and a little tough to find, so check with your local library first. ( )
  Katie_H | Jun 5, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yigael Yadinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pearlman, MosheTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Preface -- The elaborate organization of the Masada expedition was shared by numerous people, organizations and scientific institutions.
1. The Challenge -- The rock of Masada, at the eastern edge of the Judean desert with a sheer drop of more than 1,300 feet to the western shore of the Dead Sea, is a place of gaunt and majestic beauty.
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