Under Jerusalem: The Buried History of the World's Most Contested City (Hardcover)
A sweeping history of the hidden world below the Holy City—a saga of biblical treasures, intrepid explorers, and political upheaval
"These untold stories of archeological digs near and under Jerusalem’s sacred sites convey all the colorful and violent and contentious history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ... A compulsive read.” —Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and author of The Outlier
In 1863, a French senator arrived in Jerusalem hoping to unearth relics dating to biblical times. Digging deep underground, he discovered an ancient grave that, he claimed, belonged to an Old Testament queen. News of his find ricocheted around the world, evoking awe and envy alike, and inspiring others to explore Jerusalem’s storied past.
In the century and a half since the Frenchman broke ground, Jerusalem has drawn a global cast of fortune seekers and missionaries, archaeologists and zealots, all of them eager to extract the biblical past from beneath the city’s streets and shrines. Their efforts have had profound effects, not only on our understanding of Jerusalem’s history, but on its hotly disputed present. The quest to retrieve ancient Jewish heritage has sparked bloody riots and thwarted international peace agreements. It has served as a cudgel, a way to stake a claim to the most contested city on the planet. Today, the earth below Jerusalem remains a battleground in the struggle to control the city above.
Under Jerusalem takes readers into the tombs, tunnels, and trenches of the Holy City. It brings to life the indelible characters who have investigated this subterranean landscape. With clarity and verve, acclaimed journalist Andrew Lawler reveals how their pursuit has not only defined the conflict over modern Jerusalem, but could provide a map for two peoples and three faiths to peacefully coexist.
About the Author
ANDREW LAWLER is author of the bestselling The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke, and the acclaimed Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?: The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, and Smithsonian. He is a contributing writer for Science and a contributing editor for Archaeology. Lawler's work has appeared several times in The Best of Science and Nature Writing.
“Under Jerusalem is a brilliant, highly innovative history of the most contested city on the planet. Andrew Lawler uses these untold stories of archeological digs near and under Jerusalem’s sacred sites to convey all the colorful and violent and contentious history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is an astounding achievement—and a compulsive read.”
—Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and author of The Outlier and The Good Spy
"What lies beneath? Lawler knows. Evoking the sights, sounds, and smells of ancient and modern Jerusalem, he introduces the reader to a myriad of archaeologists and other colorful characters, all concerned with unearthing the ancient remains of the city, frequently while grappling with thorny modern political, ideological, and theological issues. A must read for anyone interested in either the history or archaeology of Jerusalem."
—Eric H. Cline, bestselling author of 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed
“Every review of Andrew Lawler's book about the wild archaeological history of Jerusalem will mention Indiana Jones. This is not because the characters he describes are much like Jones—they're much more obsessed, more bonkers, or more mendacious—but because the Indiana Jones stories are among the few examples we have of stories about archaeology that are pure fun. Well, now there is another one, just as swashbuckling as the Spielberg movies, but with the added advantage of being all true."
—Charles C. Mann, New York Times bestselling author of 1491 and The Wizard and the Prophet
“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.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"An archaeological journey through the millennia in the Holy Land underscores the tensions between the biblical narrative and the historical record...A leisurely, entertaining walk through the ages with a pleasant, knowledgeable guide."