1. How and when did you get hooked on history?
2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
History was the way my family talked about emotions, beliefs, and thoughts; it was a language that helped me to make sense of the world around me. As Faulker said, the past is never dead, it isn't even past. Growing up, I knew that was true.
3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?
For years I wrote about the future--working for the Futurist Magazine and then covering the space program. But then I was invited to cover an archaeology meeting in Baghdad before the Iraq War, and I suddenly was writing about the past and the way it was entangled with the present. Now I love writing about history more than any other topic.
4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
Without knowing--or feeling--our roots, we are leaves in the constantly shifting wind of opinion and social media. Understanding our origin gives us a solid piece of ground to make meaning of the often confusing world around us. To me, it is as vital as air.
5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
More obscure periods and places! Ancient Egypt is great, but Mesopotamia is even older and less known and therefore more intriguing. Why did those people begin to build cities, write, and create what we call civilization? Central Asia's past is also fascinating, this vast swath of territory on which so much of history played out. And then there is Polynesia, where the greatest sailors of pre-modern times embarked on amazing feats of nautical skill..
6. How did you get the idea for your new book, Under Jerusalem: Buried History of the World's Most Contested City?
I had written about Middle Eastern archaeology for years, but I had long avoided Jerusalem. All that current-day religion and politics made it seem like a reporting nightmare. Then I took a tour with an archaeologist friend who opened my eyes to the extensive work going on underground--work that had begun in the 1860s. I suddenly realized that religion and politics are precisely what made archaeology in Jerusalem so unique, controversial, and fascinating.
7. What did you hope readers learn from reading Under Jerusalem?
Science and exploration never happen in a vacuum. People have agendas--political, religious, scientific, etc--but that is a natural part of being human. I hope that people who read my book will come away with a deeper understanding of how those who dug up the biblical past ended up turning Jerusalem into a sought-after and violent place. But they also uncovered information that I believe could one day lead to a fuller and richer understanding of this contested city that might, someday, form the basis for peaceful coexistence.