Submitting Institution

University of Cambridge

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Built Environment and Design: Architecture
History and Archaeology: Archaeology, Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Simon Goldhill's research on the history and archaeology of Jerusalem led to his being asked to join the EU-funded programme Promoting Understanding of Shared Heritage (PUSH). The aim of the project is to develop a new policy on sites of shared cultural heritage, in which capacity Goldhill has met regularly with — and been able to influence — Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian policy-makers. This influence is manifested in a rapprochement between groups who had previously been unable to meet; new signage at significant sites across Israel/Palestine and Jordan; and continuing interaction particularly on the crucial area of the management of natural resources.

Underpinning research

Simon Goldhill has been on the academic staff since 1982; and Professor of Greek since 2002. The bulk of the research underpinning this impact study was conducted from 2003 to 2008 and published in two widely admired books (2005, 2008).

The Temple of Jerusalem (2005) [below 3.1] attracted the attention of the organisers of the EU project for three reasons. First, it offered an account of the Temple at Jerusalem which, while archaeologically sophisticated, did not attempt merely to reconstruct its ancient form, but rather looked at how the Temple as a site had become a building of the imagination, re-conceived and fought over across the ages. Second, it was rare among treatments of sites in this region in that it was sensitive to the histories of the three Abrahamic faiths, recognising, in an even-handed manner, how the site has been highly significant to different communities. Third, it treated art, literature and history together, exploring how a site of cultural heritage is formed in the mind and in the cultural products of different communities.

Jerusalem: City of Longing (2008) [3.2] is a guide to the sites of cultural heritage of the city and continued the same agenda to embrace the even more complex site of the city of Jerusalem itself. This research involved Goldhill in many highly contentious areas of modern historiography concerning the conflicts in the politics and history of Israel, and discussions with many of the most active participants in the battles over cultural heritage in the region. The book helped contribute to the agenda of PUSH not only by its nuanced account of cultural sites, but also by its refusal to mimic the tone of outrage and aggression that mars so many accounts of the region. It is unique in telling the story of the city through its sites of cultural heritage and their contested understanding. Appreciating the archaeological, architectural and historical context of sites is integral to their management and to understanding their social and political significance as part of their management. This research has continued with further detailed academic work on Victorian Jerusalem in particular [3.3, 3.4], as part of two major externally-funded academic projects at Cambridge, for which Goldhill is a PI and grant-holder.

References to the research

[3.1] S.D. Goldhill, The Temple of Jerusalem (London: Profile Books, 2005) runner up for the Wingate Prize and translated into Hungarian, Portuguese, Russian, Bulgarian and Italian.

[3.2] S.D. Goldhill, Jerusalem: City of Longing (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2008) winner of the Gold Medal, History Section of the Independent Publishers Association.

[3.3] S.D. Goldhill, `Victorian Jerusalem', in D. Gange and M. Ledger-Lomas (ed.) Cities of God: the Bible and Archaeology in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013) 71-110.


[3.4] S.D. Goldhill, `The Cotswolds in Jerusalem: Restoration and Empire', in P. Mandler and A. Swenson (ed.) From Plunder to Preservation: Britain and the Heritage of Empire, c. 1800-1940 (Proceedings of the British Academy 187: The British Academy, 2013) 115-145.


All outputs can be supplied by the University of Cambridge on request.

The initial research was instrumental in helping Goldhill win two major grants through which the research has been extended: joint PI (with M. Beard and P. Mandler) for a Leverhulme research programme grant, "Past versus Present in Victorian Britain: Abandoning the Past in an Age of Progress"; start date, 1 October 2006; end date, 1 April 2012; value, £1,179,459; and PI for a ERC Senior award on "The Bible and Antiquity in the Nineteenth Century"; start date, 1 June 2012; end date, 31 May 2017; value, £1,756,900.

Details of the impact

Following the publication of his first book on Jerusalem, Goldhill was invited to act as a peer-reviewer and active participant in PUSH [5.1], funded by the EU and, in its latter stages, also by the Norwegian Government. Goldhill was officially involved in the project between 2006 and 2010. The UNESCO chief representative for the region stated, `the contribution of all the peer reviewers was critical in establishing trust between the partners; and especially the initial presentation by Professor Goldhill was a major contribution in setting the scene' [5.2]. This project brought together Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian public policy officials, academics, and participants in ecological and cultural heritage industries, for a series of meetings in 2008, 2009 and 2010. For political and security reasons, the meetings were initially private and secret, but subsequently became public, and led to policy decisions with regard both to the management of sites of cultural heritage and to strategies with regard to natural resources and their importance to the region. Perhaps the most significant result of such long-term activity is the return of a flow of fresh water to the river Jordan for the first time in 40 years (summer 2013); prior to the control of the sewage and salt water flow that currently still pollutes it [5.3]. As well as acting as a remote peer-reviewer throughout the programme, Goldhill also attended four meetings at both the private and the public stages of the programme as peer-reviewer and "neutral" academic adviser. In this capacity Goldhill gave three key-note addresses (2008, 2009, 2010) to this group on issues of shared and sharing cultural heritage (including the now public lecture April 2008 [5.4]).

Goldhill's involvement with PUSH between 2008-2010 also gave him the opportunity to be influential through private meetings with leadership of the Waqf, the Palestinian officials of the Jordanian authorities who run the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, with planning department officials in Jerusalem, and with Jordanian officials — particularly from the water authorities (2008-2012). Goldhill's involvement took him to Jerusalem on numerous occasions, especially in 2008-2012. When the project produced a book, Our Shared Heritage, published in Arabic, English and Hebrew, Goldhill contributed the afterword (2008) [5.5]. This book presented the schedule of sites and the rationale for their treatment. It was part of the programme that was instrumental in changing the policy and producing new signage for sites in the region: for some highly contested sites, three parallel signs were produced with different but interrelated histories with wording agreed between the different communities. Other sites (e.g. pilgrimage sites for one of the three Abrahamic faiths) were linked by a single story, pointing out similar cultural practices across the region. It is a measure of the importance and success of the programme, and particularly of the neutrality established not least by Goldhill's involvement, that the programme continued to meet after the Palestinian official ban on meetings in response to the Gaza incursion. The programme was presented as a success story by UNESCO at the 40th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention in November 2012 in Kyoto. The discussion of the programme in an article in the UNESCO magazine Museum International cited Goldhill's research-led contribution as instrumental for the programme's success [5.6].

Because of his research and his part in the EU programme, Goldhill was asked (2009) to meet and debate political and cultural issues with tour guides and the trainers of tour guides in Jerusalem, in order to produce more nuanced accounts of the sites visited. Goldhill was also invited to meetings with leading Israeli and Palestinian archaeologists (2008, 2009).

More broadly, Goldhill's work has come to public attention in the UK and USA. Goldhill presented his research in a Distinguished Lecture series as the Schaffner Professor in Chicago in 2009; at Jewish Book Week in London in 2011; at the 92nd Y at New York (a major educational and cultural centre) in 2012; and at the British Museum (2012); and he has given over thirty public talks on the Temple and its management since the publication of his first book on the subject. These public events regularly attract audiences of up to 500. Goldhill was also invited to give a master class for UNESCO on urban planning in Jerusalem in 2010, to celebrate the UNESCO international year of cultural rapprochement, and the inaugural address for the new MA programme on urban design at the Bezalel Institute in Jerusalem (Israel's premier art, architecture and design school) in 2009.

Since the close of his formal engagement with the project in 2010, Goldhill has continued to be used as a reviewer for UNESCO projects in the region, especially on potential museum and other cultural heritage areas. In 2013, he was asked by the Deputy Director General for Culture, UNESCO [5.7] to act as an independent reviewer for, and then to help negotiate a redesign of, an exhibition on "The Jews and the Land of Israel": this involved high-level negotiations with international institute directors and public officials at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, as well as remote reviewing and active engagement with the exhibition designers. The exhibition, significantly altered following Goldhill's criticisms, is scheduled to open in Paris in December 2013.

He has also continued to meet with relevant UNESCO and government officials in an informal capacity. Sites of shared cultural heritage have the potential to be major sources of conflict in this highly conflicted region, and to be a cause of major misunderstanding. By taking his research into the areas of policy, practice and public awareness Goldhill has aimed to make a contribution to lowering levels of conflict and increasing mutual understanding not just of the sites themselves but also of the difficult and complex processes of sharing cultural heritage. As the UNESCO chief representative for the region including Israel stated: `His contribution was instrumental in moving towards achieving the goals of the action in general and an innovative approach for new signs and manuals of sites of shared cultural heritage, in particular. This also strengthened the ongoing process of dialogue between different groups in the process of the management of these sites.' [5.2]

Sources to corroborate the impact


[5.2] Testimony from person 1 (Director of the PUSH Project, the UNESCO representative in Jerusalem) (21 March 2013)



[5.5] Our Shared Heritage: An Anthology of the Region's Shared Natural and Cultural Heritage: An Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian Project (Jerusalem: PUSH, April 2008)

[5.6] E. Ya'ari `Promoting Understanding of Shared Heritage (PUSH)', Museum International 245/246 (2010) 9-13 (DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0033.2010.01721.x)

[5.7] E-mails from person 2 (Deputy Director General for Culture, UNESCO), 9 April 2013 and 19 July 2013