David Schloen is a Professor of Archaeology in the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures and in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations of the University of Chicago, where he is also an Associated Faculty member of the Divinity School. He specializes in the archaeology and history of the Levant in the Bronze and Iron Ages (ca. 3500 to 500 BCE). His archaeological fieldwork began in 1989 in the long-running Harvard University excavations at Ashkelon on the south coast of Israel, where he served as associate director from 1994 to 2004 and co-edited the series of excavation reports. He has also directed excavations at Tel Yaqush, a village of the Early Bronze Age (3500–2500 BCE) on the northern Jordan River in Israel, and at Alalakh in the Plain of Antioch (modern Antakya) on the Turkish-Syrian border, a prominent city of the Middle and Late Bronze Ages (2000–1200 BCE). He has ongoing excavation projects at three sites: the Aramean city of Sam’al (modern Zincirli Höyük) in the Gaziantep province of southeastern Turkey; the Canaanite-Phoenician site of Tell Keisan north of Haifa in Israel; and the Phoenician colony site of Cerro del Villar near Málaga on the south coast of Spain.
His aim as an archaeologist is to synthesize archaeological and textual evidence to understand the early cities and kingdoms of the Levant and how they were organized, socially and economically. Much of his research and teaching is concerned with the Amorite/Canaanite culture of the Levant and its Iron Age Phoenician and Israelite manifestations. Developments in the Canaanite world reveal the broader structural transformations of the first millennium BCE, which wrought fundamental changes in Mediterranean society and economy in the period before the classical Greek and Roman empires. Schloen explores these transformations by studying the interaction between mundane social practices and the shared metaphors and narratives that sustained, and were sustained by, those practices — as in his book on The House of the Father as Fact and Symbol, which examines the intertwined ideological and material dimensions of ancient patriarchal households on various social scales using Max Weber’s concept of “patrimonialism,” seen through the lens of more recent hermeneutical theory.
David Schloen is also the Faculty Director of the University of Chicago’s Forum for Digital Culture. Before going into archaeology and biblical studies, he studied computer science and cognitive psychology and worked as a computer programmer; hence his longstanding interest in digital humanities and especially in the phenomenological critique of disembodied artificial intelligence and the use of “top-level” or foundational ontologies for semantic integration of data across diverse projects and recording systems. Out of this has emerged the OCHRE computational platform, which respects the deeply rooted practices of semantic autonomy in the humanities by directly modeling each project’s own terminology and conceptual distinctions, avoiding any attempt forcibly to standardize ontologies across multiple projects while still permitting semantic mappings across many projects for large-scale querying and analysis, thereby upholding the hermeneutical claim that meaning depends on context. (See the article by David Schloen and Sandra Schloen in Digital Humanities Quarterly, “Beyond Gutenberg: Transcending the Document Paradigm in Digital Humanities.”)
Recent & Regularly Taught Courses
- DIGS 20007/30007 Introduction to Digital Humanities
- NEAA 20321/30321 Ancient Levant I: From the Stone Age to the Late Bronze Age
- NEAA 20322/30322 Ancient Levant II: From the Early Iron Age to the Hellenistic Era
- NEAA 20100/30100 Introduction to Archaeology
- NEAA 20331/30331 Households, Kinship, and Demography in the Ancient Near East (seminar)
- NEAA 20332/30332 Trade, Exchange, and Politics in the Ancient Near East (seminar)
- NEHC 20010/30010 Social Theory and Ancient Studies