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Haskel Greenfield


by Rhonda Spivak , May 3, 2015




Dr. Haskel Greenfield, Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Manitoba, has just been recognized as one of the University’s “Distinguished Professors”. Greenfield, who is co-director (with his wife, Dr. Tina Greenfield) of the University’s Near Eastern and Biblical Archaeology Lab at St Paul's College is one of twenty professors at the U of M who hold this honour at any one time. Distinguished Professors are recognized for their “significant record in teaching and outstanding distinction in research and scholarship or in creative professional activity” and they keep the honour for the rest of their career. (In order for a new Distinguished Professor to be appointed, one of the previous must leave the university, retire or pass away.)


Greenfield was scheduled to officially receive the honour at Convocation in June, but the official presentation will be delayed until the Fall Convocation since he will be digging this summer at his archaeological excavation at Tell es-Safi/Gath in Israel. He says of the excavations "there have been many very exciting discoveries of late, which have begun to change the way we think about the evolution of Canaanite culture and how people lived in some of the first cities in the region."


The Tell es-Safi/Gath (Israel) research program is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in a partnership agreement with Greenfield's colleague, Professor Aren Maeir at Bar-Ilan University (Israel).


"The site is known as Gath of the Philistines, the hometown of the famous Goliath. But, our research has helped to show that it is also one of the largest cities in the region in more ancient times", he says.

Greenfield notes that "Our discoveries represent significant new knowledge about the structure of early cities in ancient Canaan during the Early Bronze Age, particularly between 3000 and 2500 BCE. This is 1500 years before the conquest of the region by the ancient Israelites and Philistines. This is also the period of time when the Old Kingdom of Egypt is at the height of its power and the great pyramids are being built. We, and other colleagues, have shown how these early cities are surrounded by large fortifications, how they were structured into public (palace and ritual) and private (houses) domains, how these people organized their activities within private domains, what their rituals were when private residential areas are being rebuilt and lived in, the kinds of foods that are being eaten, and the nature of the trading and economic systems, etc."


"An important part of our project is the inclusion and training of students on all levels. For example, our project has attracted new MA and PhD students in Anthropology who would not otherwise come to or stay in Winnipeg (such as Jon Ross, Nour Ashour, Annie Brown, Deland Wing, who are currently in the program). This project has provided the basis for the successful completion of MA thesis research programs for others (2014 graduation - Jeremy Beller, Anthropology, UofM; Shira Kisos –Land of Israel Studies, Bar-Ilan University). Several undergraduates accompany us to Israel every summer for high quality field training in Archaeology or Biblical Archaeology in our “Field School in Archaeology” programs that are hosted by Judaic Studies and Anthropology at the U of M.


"We have already published several new articles, submitted several more manuscripts for publication, and are planning a monograph on our excavations which we hope to publish in about a year. Everyone should come and visit us this summer in Israel to see the excavations. We also welcome volunteers."


Greenfield, who was born in Newark, New Jersey and came to Winnipeg in 1989, is also the Coordinator of the Judaic Studies Program at the U of M. He told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that budget cuts in the Faculty of Arts over several years have really impacted our ability to host a full program for students. "We are looking for donations from the community for the Judaic Studies to maintain the Hebrew Language program, for students to be able to travel each summer to Israel to participate in our summer program, and for our Near Eastern and Biblical Archaeology Laboratory (the base for our long-term research and teaching about Israel and Archaeology at the U of M)."


When asked by the Winnipeg Jewish Review if students take his courses because he is considered to be "an easy A", Greenfield responded, "I would not say that I am known to be an “easy A”. In fact, I believe that it is the opposite. I hold my students to a high standard, while trying my best to give them a first class education. We both have to work together if they want to achieve excellence and my student evaluations are consistently in the very positive range.


Greenfield says he is respected by those students who really want to learn. "If they will work with me, I will teach them all they can. I will expose them to the excitement of the larger world and take them on an intellectual voyage that extends from the deep mists of time into the present. I have taught thousands of undergraduate students and hundreds of graduate students over the years. I have had undergraduate and graduate students repeatedly write or tell me how much they appreciated the time and effort that I put into their education and how important it was for their eventual success. I often hear from them that there are few professors who are willing to take the time to ensure that anyone can learn. All of my own graduate students have gone on to productive careers having learned what it takes to succeed."


Greenfield feels that he benefits from being both a scholar and a teacher. Not only can he share his knowledge with his students and the larger academic and public communities, but he also learns from them.


Greenfield has spent the first half of this year in England at the University of Cambridge. He was invited to be the Overseas Visiting Scholar this year at St. John’s College which is part of the famous university. "It is the equivalent of a Senior Scholar in Residence. I have the status of a Fellow in the College, and retain lifetime rights to visit and dine a certain number of times each year. I live within the College in my own cottage (Merton Hall Cottage). I am also a Visiting Scholar at the MacDonald Institute for Archaeological Research that is part of the University of Cambridge. I have used the time very profitably to complete several articles that are now in press and I am using the remaining time to work on other manuscripts. I do all of this while still advising my graduate students back home and coordinating the Judaic Studies program."


Greenfield returned home for several weeks in the Spring to spend Passover with his family and to connect with his students at the Uof M. In mid-April, he left Winnipeg again for almost four months of continuous travel and research. His base will once again be in Cambridge until mid-June, with frequent trips to mainland Europe during this period. "During the first two weeks of May, I will be traveling to the University of Heidelberg (Germany – to lecture on ancient feasting among the first farming communities in Europe) and University of Göttingen (Germany – to lecture on our excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath), and to the University of Poznan (Poland – to lecture on Tell es-Safi/Gath and to finish writing up my research with colleagues there on one of the most ancient towns in the world – Çatal Höyük, Turkey). Afterwards, I will be lecturing at the British Museum (London), University of Oxford, and the Rijksuniversitat (Groningen, Netherlands) on the results of our excavation at Tell es-Safi/Gath. In between, I will be returning to Cambridge to continue my writing and research. In mid-June, I will travel to Israel where I will meet my team of colleagues and students to begin our fieldwork at Tell es-Safi/Gath. I won’t be home again until early August, when colleagues from Africa will be visiting. At that point, I will go to our cottage and collapse for a month of much needed R and R with my family."


When asked about his current workload, Greenfield responded, "I am desperately trying to write up the results of older projects that I conducted many years ago on the nature of early food farming communities and food production systems in southeastern Europe (e.g. Serbia, Bosnia, and Romania). At the same time, I am working with my students and colleagues on my more recent research program on the nature of early cities in the Near East. In between, I spend time analysing butchered mastodon and other megafauna from the earliest peoples in the Americas (c. 12,000-13,000 years ago) and Europe (c. 500,000 years ago). Another of my research passions is the origins of metallurgy, how it spread across the Old World, and how it transformed local economies and societies. I am also publishing on the origins of early animal domestication and how they were used originally. We now understand that the earliest domestic livestock were used for their primary (meat, bone and hide) products first. We are trying to understand when they begin to be used for their secondary products (milk, traction for carts and ploughs, and wool). It is clear that milking appears very early in time, but was not a major part of the diet. In contrast, the use of domestic animals for pulling carts and ploughs, and for wool, or intensively milking did not appear until much later in time."


Greenfield will officially be presented with his distinction at Fall Convocation, after he has returned from his extensive travels.


Greenfield feels that he is living the life of a dream. He has been able to pursue childhood passions. As a child, he became interested in dinosaurs and ancient history. He was been able to combine these two passions when he became a specialist in the analysis of ancient animal bones. As the University of Manitoba’s newest Distinguished Professor, he says he looks forward to many more years of both teaching and research, and being able to share his knowledge and experience with the larger community.


To learn more about Greenfield and his interests, go to the following websites:

Personal -

Publications -

Near Eastern and Biblical Archaeology Lab (NEBAL) -

NEBAL Facebook -

Tell es-Safi/Gath -

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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