A Century of Subterranean Abuse in Sabastiya: The Archaeological Site as a Field of Urban Struggle
deep mapping

Sabastiya, an archaeological site and living city northwest of Nablus, was excavated by Harvard University in 1908 using Palestinian labor for the purposes of supporting biblical archaeology. The excavation left scars in the city that are still felt today, both through the intergenerational trauma of the physical labor, but also through the continued Zionist interest in the site that keeps Sabastiya as a target. Today, the city is still suffering, with Israeli settlers targeting the site and its residents frequently, burning trees, dumping sewage waste in the valleys, and terrorizing the residents. The archaeological site, most of which sits within Area C, is controlled by the Israeli Archaeological Department of the Civil Administration, essentially a militarized team of archaeologists headed by the Ministry of Defense. Although a century apart, the excavation and the military and settler violence against the residents of Sabastiya, and the site itself, have a common denominator: a Zionist ideology that believes there is a valuable singular origin to the incredibly complex layers beneath and above the surface of the ground.

Author biography: 

Dima Srouji is an architect exploring the ground as deep space. She is currently the Jameel Fellow at the Victoria & Albert Museum and is leading the MA City Design Studio at the Royal College of Art in London.