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UE-Sponsored Jezreel Expedition to Begin Inaugural Dig Season in Israel

Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2013

University of Evansville students, alumni, and faculty will spend their summer exploring archaeological remains in northern Israel as participants in the inaugural Jezreel Expedition dig season.

Along with the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at Israel’s University of Haifa, the University of Evansville co-sponsors the Jezreel Expedition, an archaeological project founded in 2012. Jennie Ebeling, chair of UE’s Department of Archaeology and Art History, and Norma Franklin of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology serve as co-directors of the project.

From May 19-June 15, 12 UE archaeology students and recent graduates will join approximately 15 students from North American universities – including new Jezreel Expedition consortium partner Vanderbilt University – in excavating three areas of archaeological significance.

The ancient city of Jezreel overlooks the biblical “Way of the Sea,” the major east-west international trade route that linked the empires of Mesopotamia with Egypt. Previous excavations have revealed remains of a heavily fortified royal enclosure, possibly constructed by Ahab and Jezebel (as described in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament). The site appears to have been occupied from the fifth millennium BCE through the 20th century, so it allows scholars and researchers to study prehistoric, biblical, and modern remains.

Last summer, the Jezreel Expedition team undertook an intensive survey of the area utilizing a three-dimensional model of the terrain created with airborne laser scanning technology (LiDAR). Team members recorded points, features, and structures on the ground which, when integrated with the 3D model, generated valuable insights into the areas that most warrant exploration.

Based on the results of that survey, the team will open three excavation areas this summer: a historically uncultivated area near the spring of Jezreel believed to contain the remains of ancient buildings, an Iron Age wine press, and an area of exposed architecture dating to the age of Ahab and Jezebel.

“Last summer’s project was a huge success. Team members recorded 361 archaeological features – from Iron Age, Roman, and Byzantine tombs to water cisterns to caves modified for human use – and pinpointed the most promising areas for excavation,” said Ebeling. “The site is rich with archaeological and historical significance, and we look forward to beginning the inaugural dig season this summer.”

Students on the Jezreel Expedition earn undergraduate or graduate credit for participating in the dig, lectures, and field trips to Jerusalem, Nazareth, and other sites throughout Israel. The group stays on a kibbutz, a close-knit community of several hundred residents adjacent to the dig site.

“By participating in the Jezreel Expedition, students learn about the latest archaeological field methods, work alongside an international team of archaeologists and students, and investigate 7,000 years of history in a single site,” Ebeling said. “Staying on a kibbutz also provides a rare opportunity for cultural immersion: We swim in the community pool, attend concerts put on by residents, and are invited into people’s homes for coffee and conversation. Students say it feels like a giant family.”

The University of Evansville’s Department of Archaeology and Art History is one of the largest undergraduate programs in Mediterranean archaeology in the Midwest, and its 60 majors participate in summer excavations and internships around the world.

UE students and alumni participating in this summer’s Jezreel Expedition are current students Morgan Davidson, Kayla Kelley, Kaitlynn Mickus, Ashley Motes, and Michael Sullivan; 2013 graduates Samantha Kimsey and Benjamin Ollestad; and 2012 graduates Nate Biondi, Kelly Goodner, Michael Koletsos, Melanie Miller, and Hilda Torres.

For more information on the Jezreel Expedition, please visit the Department of Archaeology and Art History or Jezreel Expedition websites.

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