When archaeologists excavate they destroy. The evidence of past human lives is taken out of the soil and recorded, but the evidence is lost, is no longer there. It cannot be put back. It now only exists in records and curated remains. That’s why a thorough, methodical approach to archaeology is so important. An archaeologist has to record everything so well that any other trained archaeologist could review the records and be able to come to a very different conclusion from the person who excavated. Yes, there is personal judgment in archaeology, but we always have to make sure that we record as objectively as possible.
An example of such destruction at Khirbet Summeily is the removal of a wall. We have uncovered it, measured it, photographed it. Now we need to find out what is below. After removing the mudbricks, the stone foundations of the walls in our square were plain to see.
We could measure and describe it again. The task of removing the stones was slow and careful.
One of the things we noticed as we took away courses of the wall was the corner stone, which stradled the two rectangular walls that formed a corner in our square. It was large in comparison to any of the other stones and more deeply embedded in the soil.
It gives us an idea of how houses back then were constructed: First the careful laying of a cornerstone and other main stones, then building stone foundations with smaller stones and finally mudbricks for the rest of the wall. When Jeremiah says that “no rock will be taken from you for a cornerstone, nor any stone for a foundation” (Jeremiah 51:26), he declares that Babylon will not be rebuilt.
The wall is gone, but we know more about it now that it is destroyed than we ever did while it was in place.