Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.
The official website of Dr. Robert R. Cargill
Dr. Robert Raymond Cargill is Associate Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at The University of Iowa. He is a biblical studies scholar, classicist, archaeologist, author, and digital humanist. His research includes study in the Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, literary criticism of the Bible and the Pseudepigrapha, and the Ancient Near East. He has appeared as an expert on numerous television documentaries and specials and is an advocate for social justice and public higher education. He previously worked and taught at UCLA.
A.A. – Fresno City College (Liberal Arts)
B.S. – CSU Fresno (Human Physiology)
M.S. – Pepperdine University (Ministry)
M.Div. – Pepperdine University
M.A. – UCLA (Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations)
Ph.D. – UCLA (Near Eastern Languages and Cultures)
Childhood and Undergraduate Education
Dr. Robert R. Cargill was born in Van Nuys, California to Leonard and Sharon Cargill (née Costales) on February 22, 1973 (Pisces, Ox). He is of Spanish descent on his mother’s side, and Italian on his father’s side, with the Cargill name being of Scottish origin. His family soon relocated to Madera, California, a small farm town in central California that he called home for 15 years. Dr. Cargill has experienced every level of public education in California. He attended John Adams Elementary, Thomas Jefferson Junior High, and Madera High School. At age 17, his family moved to nearby Fresno, California, where he graduated from Bullard High School. He turned down undergraduate admission offers to attend UC Berkeley, USC, and Pepperdine, choosing instead to attend local community college. By working the graveyard shift at a local Walgreens, he put himself through Fresno City College, where he earned his A.A. degree and won a state championship in 1992 as a catcher with the baseball team. He then transferred to California State University, Fresno, where he followed a pre-medical curriculum and earned a B.S. degree in Human Physiology.
Dr. Cargill then accepted the J.P. Sanders Scholarship to attend Pepperdine University, where he earned a Master of Science degree in Ministry and his seminary degree, the Master of Divinity. While studying biblical studies at Pepperdine, he began studying archaeology and ancient Near Eastern cultures under Dr. Randall Chesnutt and Dr. John F. Wilson. Also while at Pepperdine, he experienced the birth of his daughter, Talitha Joy. Dr. Cargill returned to Pepperdine in 2002 and taught courses in Hebrew Bible and New Testament at Pepperdine University. In 2004, he was hired by Academy Award winning actress Nicole Kidman to teach her history and religion of the Middle East. He then accepted a fellowship to attend the University of California, Los Angeles, and earned an M.A. in Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations and his Ph.D. under Dr. William Schniedewind in the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, with an emphasis in Second Temple period archaeology and biblical studies. His dissertation work focused on the archaeological remains of Khirbet Qumran, the site associated with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Dr. Cargill has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Central and South America, and the Middle East. Dr. Cargill began his archaeological career in 1999 as a Square Supervisor in the excavations at Banias, Israel (Golan Heights) with Dr. Vassilios Tzaferis and Dr. John F. Wilson. The next year he served as Area Supervisor at Banias. In 2004, he began work as a Square Supervisor for the excavations at nearby Omrit, Israel with Dr. Andy Overman. Most recently, Dr. Cargill participated in the excavations at Hatzor, Israel in 2006 with Dr. Amnon Ben-Tor. Dr. Cargill is presently excavating with students from the University of Iowa at Tel Azekah as part of the Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition with Dr. Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University, Dr. Manfred Oeming of Heidelberg University, and Dr. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University. Dr. Cargill was a Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Research Associate while at UCLA.
Dr. Cargill is Associate Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa. Prior to coming to Iowa, Dr. Cargill had taught at Pepperdine University, Azusa Pacific University, Portland State University, and UCLA. Among his taught courses are introductions to Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, introductions to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and New Testament, the History of Jerusalem (which uses Jerusalem as a lens through which to study and compare Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and a course comparing the evolution of the Mythologies of Otherworld Journeys in various religions.
Biblical Archaeology Review
On Jan. 1, 2018, Dr. Cargill was named Editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, after having served as Associate Editor for much of 2017. BAR is a one-of-a-kind archaeology magazine that acts as a bridge between the academic study of archaeology and a broad general audience eager to understand the world of the Bible better. Covering both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament since its beginning in 1975, BAR is the leading nonsectarian forum for the discussion of biblical archaeology. Articles by top scholars are written for the layperson, and archaeological news, trivia, and games ensure that even the most serious scholars enjoy reading the latest issue of BAR.
Publications and Appearances
Dr. Cargill’s first book, Qumran through (Real) Time: A Virtual Reconstruction of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Gorgias), examines the settlement of Khirbet Qumran using new technological approaches in the Digital Humanities including digital archaeological reconstruction and virtual reality.
His second book, The Cities that Built the Bible (HarperOne) was published in March of 2016, "blends archaeology, biblical history, and personal journey as he explores these cities and their role in the creation of the Bible." The Cities that Built the Bible was awarded the 2017 Illumination Book Awards Gold Medal in the Bible Study category.
His third book, Melchizedek, King of Sodom: How Scribes Invented the Biblical Priest-King (Oxford University Press, 2019), explores the biblical figure of Melchizedek and claims that the text of Gen. 14:18 originally names Melchizedek as the king of Sodom, not Shalem. It argues that Shalem was not an early name of Jerusalem, but was only associated with Jerusalem during the Second Temple period.
Dr. Cargill has appeared as an expert on numerous documentaries and television shows on channels including CNN, History, Discovery, Weather Channel, and NatGeo. In 2010, he hosted the National Geographic special, Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls. In 2013, Dr. Cargill served as the Consulting Producer on the History series, Bible Secrets Revealed, appearing in every episode. In 2017, he appeared on season 2 of CNN's Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery, and served as consultant and contributor in every episode of History's Jesus: His Life in 2019.
Cargill regularly lectures on topics concerning archaeology (including pseudoarchaeology and sensationalist archaeology), biblical studies, Qumran, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hellenistic Judaism and religious sects in the Second Temple period, linguistic ideology, and the digital humanities.
Politics and Philosophy
Politically, Dr. Cargill is a left-leaning independent, unaffiliated with any American political party. He is registered to vote in Johnson County, IA with "No Party" listed as his party affiliation. He is an ardent supporter of the separation of church and state. He has argued that science (and specifically archaeology) should not be used for evangelistic purposes and regularly critiques those who attempt to use what he terms "pseudoscience" to make religious claims. Dr. Cargill was raised as a Christian (Churches of Christ), but has since stated to the NY Times that he is an agnostic, describing himself as a "agnostic humanist." He is a member of the Agudas Achim Congregation in Coralville, IA, and a member of the American Humanist Association. He has stated that Christian insistence upon the "inerrancy and infallibility" of the Bible and a literal interpretation of the biblical text is greatly harming both modern Judaism and Christianity. He does not view stories of a biblical six-day creation and a great flood as historical. Dr. Cargill has written extensively in favor of marriage equality, and against California Proposition 8, arguing that the state should not prohibit homosexual couples from marrying.
Dr. Cargill is a faculty member of the University of Iowa consortium on Public Humanities in a Digital World, and a member of the Digital Humanities Cluster Cohort for the University of Iowa Digital Studio for Public Humanities. Prior to coming to Iowa, Dr. Cargill worked for the UCLA Center for Digital Humanities as the Instructional Technology Coordinator, and as Chief Architect and Designer of the Qumran Visualization Project, a real-time virtual reconstruction of the site of Qumran. He is an avid blogger, writing at this official blog, XKV8R, accessible either via robertcargill.com or xkv8r.com. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature Blogging and Online Publication steering committee. He has published and presented professional papers on issues dealing with blogging, online publication, and the future of instructional technology.
In August of 2010, Dr. Cargill was named one of Fresno City College’s 100 distinguished alumni as part of the college’s “100 Stars for 100 Years” program, celebrating the centennial anniversary of the college. In 2011, he was named Fresno City College’s Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient and the 2011 Commencement Speaker at Selland Arena, Fresno, CA, May 20, 2011.
Membership in Professional Organizations
Dr. Cargill is a professional member of:
Society of Biblical Literature (Section Chair)
American Schools of Oriental Research (Member)
Archaeological Institute of America (Member)
Israel Exploration Society (Member)
He is also involved in other local, social, and environmental organizations including:
American Humanist Association
National Geographic Society
Biblical Archaeology Society
Agudas Achim Congregation
Research interests include the Hebrew Bible, development of the New Testament, Near Eastern archaeology, Qumran, the Dead Sea Scrolls, virtual reality, digital modeling, Hebrew and Aramaic, literary criticism, targums, Melchizedek, and classical Judaean numismatics, and religion and public policy.
Dr. Cargill was married to his partner, Roslyn, on March 20, 2010. He has a daughter, Talitha; a son, MacLaren; fraternal twins–a son, Quincy; and a daughter, Rory Kate; and a son, Judah. He resides in Iowa City, IA. He is a Mensan and a Rotarian and spends much of his spare time computing, reading, and building things in the yard.