Mind the Dig: Unearthing Jewish Heritage

Dozens of students and volunteers from around the globe joined Bar-Ilan archaeologists this past summer for an unforgettable hands-on experience digging into the past at two important Biblical Period sites. Under the capable supervision of Prof. Aren Maeir, of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, enthusiastic participants from the US, Canada, South Korea, the UK, Hungary, China, Spain and other countries chiseled away at the layers of civilization, helping to uncover rich finds and make BIU's 2012 summer excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath and Tel Burna a resounding success!

 

Among the discoveries: a fortification wall from the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1500- 1200 CE), when Canaanite Gath was a booming city, and pottery vessels imported from Cyprus and Greece; a large cultic building dating to the time of King Ahab and the prophet Elijah (mid-9th century BCE) in the lower city of Gath; and impressive evidence of the outer fortification wall of the 12th century Crusader castle Blanche Garde. At Tel Burna, Late Bronze Age finds comprise a row of large jars, a beaded necklace with a scarab, a cylinder seal, and a vessel with three joined cups, likely of cultic orienta

tion.

 

The large archaeological team included a group of college students eager to "touch" the history and culture of the ancient Land of Israel – by unearthing Biblical artifacts, and taking part in archaeology lectures and field trips. This opportunity was made possible thanks to a generous, model fellowship initiative created by an anonymous foundation, which fully covered the students' costs at the excavations. The fellows were effusive in their praise:

 

• "These unforgettable four weeks were an experience of a lifetime. The feeling of holding a vessel from the Iron Age, which has laid untouched under the surface for thousands years, was indescribable... I gained outstanding fieldwork experience, and had a chance to work with a great team."

• "It was an immense privilege to come to dig. Not only did I get practical field experience, but also had the unique opportunity to hear specialists lecture with passion about how archaeology can impact our understanding of past ways of life."

• "The experience on and off the site was incredible and has re-affirmed my desire to work in Israel at Iron Age II sites. These digs (and their phenomenal staff) have even motivated me to want to study here in Israel."

 

• "I was lucky enough to be part of some exciting discoveries. We successfully uncovered a massive city wall ... As a chemist, I believe this amazing collaboration between the exact sciences and archaeology will spawn a new era in archaeology."

 

Perhaps the most telling endorsement of the BIU hands-on Biblical archaeology experience is the declaration of one happy digger: "I'm already counting down the days until next summer and hope I can participate as a volunteer once more!"