2018 BAS Scholarship Winners

They came, they saw, they dug.


BAS Dig Scholarship winner Rebecca Zami is featured on the cover of the January/February 2019 “Dig” issue of BAR. Photo: Courtesy of the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project.

This past summer, volunteers traveled to archaeological excavations throughout the biblical world. They gave their time, energy, and enthusiasm to keep digs running effectively. Students and teachers, amateurs and professionals, juveniles and retirees—they all picked up trowels and brushes to actively help uncover the remains of ancient civilizations. Every year the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) provides scholarships to individuals who would not otherwise be able to participate in an archaeological excavation. In 2018, BAS awarded 14 qualified individuals scholarships of $2,000 each— enabling them to dig at sites in Israel and Jordan.

On behalf of the scholarship winners, BAS offers our sincere thanks to the generous donors who made this year’s scholarship program possible:

Kenneth and Ann Bialkin
George Blumenthal
Edward and Raynette Boshell
Eugene (d. 2018) and Emily Grant
Ms. Darlene Jamison
David and Jemima Jeselsohn
Victor R. Kieser
Leon Levy Foundation, Shelby White, Trustee
John and Carol Merrill
Jonathan P. and Jeannette Rosen
Harry and Gertrude Schwartz Foundation, Jeffery Yablon, Trustee
Michael and Judy Steinhardt
Samuel D. Turner and Elizabeth Goss

The Biblical Archaeology Society, publisher of BAR, annually offers dig scholarships of $2,000 each to people desiring to participate in a dig and demonstrating financial need. To apply, send a résumé, cover letter, and full contact information for two references (professional or academic) in one email to [email protected] or by mail to BAS Dig Scholarships, 5614 Connecticut Ave NW #343, Washington DC 20015 USA. In your letter, explain where and why you want to excavate, and why you should be selected for a scholarship. Priority will be given to first-time dig participants. Applications must be received by March 15, 2019.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to volunteer on an archaeological dig? I Volunteered For This?! Life on an Archaeological Dig is a free eBook that gives you the lowdown on what to expect from life at a dig site. You’ll be glad to have this informative, amusing and sometimes touching collection of articles by archaeological dig volunteers.

Ella Andrews

Mount Zion
ella-andrews-bhdThis summer, I had the incredible opportunity to work in Jerusalem on the Mount Zion excavation, directed by Dr. Shimon Gibson, Dr. James Tabor, and Dr. Rafi Lewis. During the six weeks I worked at Mount Zion, I restored artifacts from a previous excavation—the Suba Cave excavation—sorted pottery with Dr. Gibson, helped photograph artifacts, and excavated in the field for two of the six weeks. I had the opportunity to do this thanks to the BAS Dig Scholarship program.

The six weeks I spent working for the Mount Zion excavation changed my life. The entire experience was incredibly fulfilling for me because I was able to confirm my passion for archaeological artifact conservation. Being able to take a bag of pottery sherds and piece back together an entire vessel that hadn’t been seen in over 2,000 years is a feeling that I will never get tired of. Conserving ancient artifacts is an incredibly satisfying task, and having the chance to practice and carry out this work all summer has proved to me that my dreams of becoming a conservator are genuine. Even after working long hours under tough time constraints, I can say that every day of work became more and more fulfilling for me.

I’ve wanted to work in archaeology ever since I was a small child. This summer was a culmination of my hard work, passion, and drive to satisfy the dream of becoming an archaeologist. I couldn’t have made it happen on my own, though. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who contributed to the Biblical Archaeology Society and made my dream possible. Your contribution and commitment to the field of archaeology allowed me to travel and work in Jerusalem and discover my passion.

Read “Digs 2019: A Day in the Life” by Robert R. Cargill >>

Check out the 2019 excavation opportunities >>

Samuel Auler

‘Einot Amitai

samuel-auler-bhd“We dig!” That was our motto at the ‘Einot Amitai excavation in Galilee. When in need of motivation to keep breaking rocks, filling buckets, doing a bucket sharsheret, or dumping the debris with a wheelbarrow, our motto would resonate through the irregular shapes of the cave: “We are archaeologists!” someone would shout. “We dig!” One certainly needs motivation to work hard from 5:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., from Sunday to Friday. And we found the motivation in the historical curiosity, the newly formed relationships, the experience of learning from different cultures and religions, and the acknowledgment that this was the opportunity of a lifetime for most of us.

‘Einot Amitai is a cave in Galilee, a few minutes from Nazareth, which served both as a quarry and a workshop for the production of chalkstone vessels in the first century C.E. Under the supervision of Dr. Yonatan Adler, our team had a very clear research question in mind for this season: to find when the production stopped at this particular site. To know when this quarry/workshop ceased to produce would contribute to determining when the use of chalkstone vessels for purity purposes started to decline, which in turn could shed light on the subject of purity practices in Judaism during the first centuries C.E. In order to answer that question, we were especially focused in finding datable material, such as pottery or coins. We were also interested, naturally, in finding the vessels that were produced in the cave; finally, since this was the third season of excavation, we were at the point of uncovering the cave’s bedrock—which we did, because “we dig!”

This experience helped to shape my assumptions on how we reconstruct history and what we can know about the past. As Dr. Adler would emphasize in our afternoon lectures or informal conversations, unfortunately we do not have a panoramic image of the past, only peepholes—glimpses to a past that is long gone. The experience at ‘Einot Amitai helped me to start approaching history with passion, yet modesty, enthusiasm, yet sobriety—knowing that we cannot know everything about the past, but we can recover amazing evidence that tells us stories about what is long gone. I will probably never know every detail about first-century Galilee, which is my field of interest, but every piece of material evidence—a chisel mark on the wall, a broken piece of pottery, a stone mug—brings us a little bit closer to reconstructing the whole.

Finally, I would like to thank BAS for this wonderful opportunity. Financial restrictions always prevented me from visiting Israel, and it was only because of the scholarship provided by BAS and its benefactors that I had the chance to visit Israel for the first time. Providing these scholarships for students, and especially students from the Third World like myself, is an act of unique generosity that has the potential to change lives and careers. One more time—thank you!

Stahlie Calvin

Tel Burna

stahlie-calvin-bhdThis summer I had the opportunity to dig for the first time on the Tel Burna project, directed by Dr. Itzick Shai. The site is interesting to scholars for several reasons, primarily because it is a candidate for the ancient city of Libnah, home to one of King Josiah’s wives. I was assigned to a team opening a new square (B6), with the objective of reaching a destruction layer. We found lots of pottery, flint, animal bones, stone tools, and possible architecture. By the end of the second week we had reached charcoal, evidence that we had indeed reached the destruction layer!

This trip impacted my life in so many ways. First, I am grateful for this experience because I was able to learn the basics of dig methodology, techniques, record-keeping, and pottery dating. Learning to work as an efficient team was also a wonderful experience that I can bring back with me and share on other projects.

Secondly, I am grateful for how it helped give shape to my perspective. I realized how much I love archaeology! Many students are discouraged from pursuing archaeology because of the hard work and doubts as to how much it really contributes to the world. Participating in a dig has been so helpful in sharing with others how archaeologists are on the front lines of history. Without them, our understanding of the past is limited and stagnant. The hard work involved is worth every minute of it.

Originally I chose Tel Burna based off of a recommendation, and it was the perfect place to start. The different areas showcased a variety of artifacts, methods, and workflow. The directors and supervisors were fantastic, wonderful teachers, and I learned so much from them in a very short amount of time. Thanks to the generosity of BAS for jumpstarting my work in archaeology. I will definitely be back next year to explore this wonderful world of discovery all over again.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to volunteer on an archaeological dig? I Volunteered For This?! Life on an Archaeological Dig is a free eBook that gives you the lowdown on what to expect from life at a dig site. You’ll be glad to have this informative, amusing and sometimes touching collection of articles by archaeological dig volunteers.

Christopher Chandler

Abel Beth Maacah

Who would get up at four in the morning, chug a cup a coffee, and hike up a sizeable hill in order to throw a pick-axe and dump buckets of dirt for seven and a half hours a day? An archaeologist! Or at least a volunteer amateur archaeologist. The three weeks on the Abel Beth Maacah dig have been full of learning, exciting finds, and more pita bread than any human should consume. Processing this trip is something that I will be doing for the rest of my life. Some experiences are too large to correctly measure their significance and personal impact while still experiencing them.


One thing that struck me during the season was how much of a team effort archaeological digs are. Not only a team effort with those present, but also with those who have gone before us in years past. It is sobering to be with people who have been at the tell since the beginning and can say, “We’ve waited four years to get to the floor that you just reached.” In my square, we got down to the bottom of a cultic room that had a standing stone hidden in the balk. As a team, we got to raise the stone and check for inscriptions (none this time!). I was so thankful for the people who went before me, planned the location, and worked to get the team to the floor. I hope next year the people who go below my levels get to have the same experience—that is, unless I find a way to get back to the site in 2019 (let’s see what my boss says!).

Finally, I’m thankful for the luck of the draw I’ve had this season! My square-mates were suspicious of the luck I had. It seemed like every time I moved to a new area or went to help a square, I uncovered something! On the last full day of digging, I came across a fully intact Iron Age I chalice—the first one found at Abel Beth Maacah! It was a privilege to find and excavate the chalice and a perfect way to wrap up my time in Israel!

Daniela Echeverria

Tel Dan

daniela-echeverria-bhdThis past summer I was able to experience the truly singular, incredible experience of excavating in the southern Levant. Thanks to the financial and scholastic support of the Biblical Archaeology Society and Hebrew Union College, I excavated at the ancient site of Tel Dan in northern modern-day Israel. I would like to express, with the utmost emphasis, my appreciation for and admiration of scholastic enterprises that make such trips possible for those students of archaeology (and otherwise) who are unable to do so on their own—such efforts are integral in advancing a spirit of universal learning.

The site of Tel Dan is situated in the northeastern corner of the Upper Galilee, nearby the borders of both Syria and Lebanon, and has enjoyed significant human occupation since the Neolithic period. Tel Dan is perhaps most famous for its place within the Biblical narrative as an outpost that stood in opposition to formalized monotheism and instead practiced polytheistic calf worship. Archaeologically, Dan is home to a considerable four-cornered altar place, what is likely the world’s oldest remaining gated archway, and the infamous Tel Dan Stele—the latter serves as the first historical record of the Biblical “House of David,” which some scholars have presumed refers to King David. Significantly, with the town of Beersheba, Dan also serves as a place marker in delineating the furthest reaches of the ancient Kingdom of Israel.

With such an abundance of rich material to study and excavate at Dan, this past season’s dig proved to be a complex affair; indeed, our team worked on three separate regions that each exhibited varied strata. As a co-supervisor of a newly excavated region just to the east of the site’s altar, I was able to enjoy the ‘dirty work’ of archaeology while simultaneously developing leadership skills in directing excavation work. After two weeks of strenuous work to uncover the layers of this area, the team’s researchers decided to pause excavation of this new area in order to focus more attention onto the other well-established areas of the site. In moving between sites, I experienced the best of both worlds: the intensely physical labor of opening a brand new excavation area and the intellectual joy of helping to interpret the stratigraphy and material of a more developed area. Although I cannot divulge any research secrets, I do suggest you all keep a special lookout for forthcoming publications on the findings at Tel Dan!

Special thanks to Dr. David Illan, Dr. Yifat Thareani, Dr. Aaron Burke, and the Hebrew Union College’s Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology.

Jason Hall


This summer I was able to participate in my first archaeological dig at el-Araj (possibly Biblical Bethsaida). This trip impacted my life in many ways. First, the excavation gave me insight into the geography of the northern part of the Sea of Galilee, especially how it would have looked in the first century. The dig allowed me to gain experience in the field of archaeology, and the dig allowed me to form many new relationships with people who have the same interests. My mom was also able to go on the trip with me, which made it a lot of fun.

I chose to excavate at el-Araj because my school (Nyack College) is a sponsor of the dig. My current program of study in Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins (AJCO) is led by R. Steven Notley. Dr. Notley is also one of the directors at el-Araj. The debate about the location of Bethsaida is interesting to me because I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, which sponsored the dig at et-Tell for many years. Et-Tell has been considered to be Biblical Bethsaida by most people for a long time. Recently, the findings at el-Araj have challenged the idea that et-Tell is Bethsaida. After learning more about the geography of the land, and looking at the archaeological evidence, I think el-Araj should be considered the leading candidate for the location of Bethsaida.

There were many exciting finds during the dig. Three new squares were made when I was at the dig. I worked in the middle square (B2). The second day I found a Crusader-period glazed vessel with sheep or goat bones underneath it. Many pieces of marble were found at the site, which is an indication of a Byzantine church being there. Coins were found from the Byzantine and Roman periods. Several oil lamps were also found.

I am very grateful for the scholarship given to me by BAS. Without the scholarship, it would have been a financial strain to go on this trip. I was able to work with an amazing archaeologist in Mordechai Aviam, who has led many digs in the Galilee. We were also able to go on a few field trips and learn about the history of certain sites located in the Galilee and how those sites related to the site at which we were digging. Going on this dig gave me hands-on experience that I would not have been able to obtain from just studying books and learning in the classroom. Overall, going on this dig was a fantastic experience.

Millie Hylka

Jezreel Expedition
millie-hylka-bhdThanks to the Biblical Archaeology Society’s generosity, I was able to be a part of the Jezreel Expedition this summer. I mainly chose to participate in this field school because it is co-directed by one of my professors, Dr. Jennie Ebeling. I knew that I would feel more comfortable going to a different country where I knew someone. The other reason I chose this site is because it seemed very interesting. What has been found at the site, both past and present, ignited a curiosity in me and has made me consider participating in another field school in Israel.

Part of the reason that I wanted to participate in a dig was to see if doing fieldwork was something that I would want to do career-wise, and now I know that it definitely is. I thoroughly enjoyed digging. A typical day out in the field started at 5 a.m. It was definitely a struggle to wake up that early in the morning, but it was nice to be able to beat the heat. When we got to the site, everyone would help and get the shades up and then we’d get our starting assignment for the day. One of my favorite assignments was leveling a rectangular section of the large square that I was in, because I enjoy doing more precise work. The section was between two walls, so as I was going down bit by bit, I would joke that I was digging my own grave! Another was when I was able to articulate a curving fired mudbrick wall. It was astonishing to me that something that made of mud and buried for thousands of years was able to hold up and still be recognizable. Though this mudbrick wall was fun, mudbrick made me nervous. There was so much of it in the section I was working in in the last two weeks at the site that I went a little crazy! Since the material is so delicate I was worried that I was going to accidentally ruin something, but thankfully that didn’t happen, and I gained a lot of knowledge on how to work with and around the material.

We walked down the lower tell to the spring for breakfast about halfway through our day in the field. I ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches in the month that I was in Israel. After breakfast, we would continue digging until about 12 p.m., which was pottery-washing time—my favorite part of the day. We would take our baskets of dirty pottery back down to the spring, take our work boots off, and enjoy the nice cool water as we gently scrubbed the pottery clean. To me, this part of the day was very relaxing, and I loved the satisfaction of getting a piece of pottery squeaky clean. I also enjoyed the pottery reading that happened throughout the week. Our pottery expert was able to tell what type of vessel a sherd was from just by looking at the smallest section of a rim. I hope that one day I’ll know something as well as she knows pottery. This part of the week was always very educational, because I learned a lot about different types of pottery, like Khirbet Kerak, as well as decorations, like grain-wash.

While digging was the main focus of this trip, we were also about to do some traveling around Israel as a group. We went to Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem, Mount Carmel, and Mount Tabor. While I am not a very religious person, you could feel the holy energy at the sites we visited, and it made me appreciate religion more than I did before. It was beautiful to see how much faith people at these places possessed. My favorite trip has to be Jerusalem. The city was gorgeous, and the markets were so colorful and spectacular—it was like something out of a movie.

I’m so grateful for this experience, because I learned so much about the history of the site, Israel, and myself. I finally feel like I am becoming an archaeologist. I learned so much about working as part of a team and about working at a larger-scale dig site. I now know different ways and techniques about how to dig, as well as how to identify pottery, flint, and animal bones, which were very present at the site. I also feel that traveling on my own made me more independent and readier to take on whatever future the archaeological world has in store for me. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’ll be forever grateful that I was chosen for a scholarship so that I could embark on this journey.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to volunteer on an archaeological dig? I Volunteered For This?! Life on an Archaeological Dig is a free eBook that gives you the lowdown on what to expect from life at a dig site. You’ll be glad to have this informative, amusing and sometimes touching collection of articles by archaeological dig volunteers.

Evelyne Koubková

Petra Garden and Pool Complex

Thanks to the generous BAS scholarship, I was able to volunteer at the Petra Garden and Pool Complex project this summer, a field school led by Dr. Leigh-Ann Bedal (Penn State Behrend) and Dr. Jennifer Ramsay (College Brockport). I am highly grateful for the intensive and challenging four weeks I was able to spend there. It was my first archaeological experience, which contributed a lot to my understanding of the complexity of research in ancient cultures. At the same time, it was a great cultural experience thanks to the project’s cooperation with the local Bedouin community, from whom we were able to learn a lot.


The ancient city of Petra was built by pre-Arab people known as the Nabateans. They became famous as merchants who were able to travel through the hostile desert environment and engage themselves in a long-distance trade, connecting the Mediterranean basin with the Arabian peninsula. Petra itself, their capital, is best known for its beautiful rock-cut tomb facades, but equally remarkable is the ingenious water system that the Nabateans created here in the middle of the desert. The Petra Garden and Pool Complex, as its name suggests, points toward this incredible achievement in water management. The project started in 1998 when Dr. Bedal came to excavate what was at that time called the Lower Market, just next to the adjacent Great Temple. However, the market turned out to be a large pool and a garden. From this follows a possible and still-disputed reinterpretation of the Great Temple as a palace structure, which only shows us how little we still know about Petra, one of the most fascinating sites in the world.

Moreover, the research at the Petra Garden and Pool Complex is not only of historical importance. Understanding the ways the ancient Nabateans were able to manage water so effectively can directly impact water management in Jordan, where water is a very scarce resource. In Petra itself, rebuilding ancient cisterns and channels is helping to preserve cultural heritage, which is otherwise being regularly damaged by flashfloods. Further, knowledge gained through archaeobotanical analysis of plant remains on the site for which Dr. Ramsay is responsible contributes to developing more effective agricultural techniques in numerous countries suffering from increasing desertification.

The trench I was assigned to proved to be a good witness of the rich history of hydraulic management in Petra. We had to dig through a whole series of more or less modern water channels. Only after multiple layers of large boulders as well as an endless amount of dirt and clay sediments had been removed, we finally reached the Nabatean pool wall as well as a slightly later buttress wall reinforcing the former. The real surprise came only on the last day of the dig, however. By removing a large stone, which seemed to form part of a pavement next to the pool wall, we uncovered a perfectly preserved water drain running under the pavement along the whole length of the pool. In order to admire this feature, we needed to lean down inside the uncovered hole with a flash light. As the tallest member of the trench crew, I was the one who spent most of the last day upside down, with my upper body underground, being held by my ankles in a naive effort to excavate the bottom of the channel. The great excitement became bittersweet when I eventually had to admit that I could not reach the very bottom through all the compact sediment layers, at least not on the last day and not without slipping upside down into the ancient drain. Despite the final disappointment, however, we all agreed that this discovery made our trench truly exciting and memorable.

Archaeology is an interesting science. While sneezing from dust and sweating with a big pick in the desert heat, all original expectations are bound to change promptly, and one needs to come with new hypotheses several times a day. The constant movement between piles of dirt and the big picture of the site to understand what is going on makes it a real intellectual adventure while being a true physical challenge. Regular discussions with more experienced colleagues and supervisors, precise documentation, and numerous evening lectures are needed as much as a good sense of humour and a healthy dose of excitement for ancient remains. I feel that this experience has moved me again one more step farther toward understanding the complex process of interpretation, a kind of understanding that I could never gain without going into the field. I sincerely hope that it was not my last time excavating and would like to thank BAS for their generous support.

Jonathon Love

Khirbet al-Ra‘i

jonathon-love-bhdBEEP, BEEP, BEEP! It’s time to get up. I’ll never forget the first day I arrived in Israel. The air was warm, the diversity was thriving, and the people were kind. However, this seemed to be a rather positive view of Israel after I experienced my first 4 a.m. wake-up call of the new season. The previous day this had been mentioned, however, every person laughed off the idea in a friendly and community environment. Strangely, it helped us bond. Unfortunately, however, this was no joke, as we drowsily found out.

On to the bus it was to Khirbet al-Ra‘i, a site located in the Shephelah approximately 3 km from Biblical Lachish. Coffee in one hand and a pillow in the other. This routine became familiar to each individual over the next 3 weeks. As we arrived on site each morning, we would pass the dig compound, which was a comforting reminder that there was more coffee to be had later that day. This is what kept up going; this is what Aussies call motivation. The tools would be collected and then we would make our way to our squares.

This area had previously turned up remains from the Iron IIA, which was significant, because this was in the time in which Biblical King David was on the scene. However, this year’s expedition was more focused on the Iron Age I period. So off we went, pickaxe in one hand and a trowel in the other hand. This is what we call hard work, teamwork, and, most importantly, this is what we call archaeology. It’s not the most precise work—quite the opposite, actually. You hit the ground once and then you hit the ground twice and then, well, you repeat that for the next 8 hours. Get my drift? It’s hard work, it’s demoralizing, it’s exhausting, it’s… “Hey Jonny, I just found a 3,100-year-old Philistine bowl with a palm tree decoration!” It can be amazing?

Over time you come across artifacts that take you back in time, whether to the Canaanite, Judean, or Philistine culture. Like many of us, I grew up hearing stories about the great battles between Philistines and Israelites. However, being here, being present, and finding evidence of their cultures is a humbling experience.

In fact, there was nothing more humbling than a bucket chain! I mention this event as it is such a fundamental part of the archaeology experience. It goes like this: You stand side-by-side as a collective and usually demoralized group. Then, you chuck the bucket that you had just caught to the next person who is adjacent to you. This mundane event usually brought out the best in everyone—oh, and the worst. Imagine this—throwing and catching over 150 buckets in a condensed time period in which you are constantly fearing a collection of compact soil hitting you square in the face. Reminiscing on this makes me cringe in my seat, yet it was in these moments that memories were made. By the end of the dig, we were excited for the bucket chain—strange right?

After 3 long weeks of digging, the archaeological excavation had come to its end. We had some amazing finds in the area I excavated. This included a huge collection of pottery that dated to the Iron Age I period (1200–1000 B.C.) and architecture, including two massive walls that were also dated to the Iron Age I. This had meant that we had come across an Iron Age I building that could have been used for storage, production, or living purposes. The expedition team was satisfied with the results. We had done it—we had found a structure that dated back over 3,000 years. This, in my eyes, was amazing.

Everyone was tired, but oddly no one wanted to leave. Excavations can have that effect on people, and I was no different. The work you must endure in each day gives you a respect for yourself that you didn’t know existed. The intense time you spend with strangers who are now friends gives you a greater admiration for your relationships. Therefore, the work you are doing gives you a more profound understanding of your life.

A special mention to Igor Kreimerman, Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, Dr. Kyle Keimer, and the Biblical Archaeology Society, who all assisted me with this trip—thank you.

Lavishly illustrated with hundreds of colorful images and charts, Solomon’s Temple and Palace: New Archaeological Discoveries by Yosef Garfinkel and Madeleine Mumcuoglu provides a new understanding of the Biblical texts, allowing a new representation of Solomon’s Temple and palace as they have never been seen before.

Rachel Schloss


rachel-schloss-bhdThanks to the generous scholarship I received from the Biblical Archaeology Society, I was able to return to the Huqoq Excavation Project for my second year of excavation. Each year at Huqoq, the team uncovers just how important this site is for our knowledge of Jewish life during the Late Roman Period (late fifth century C.E.). The excavations are led by Dr. Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Magness began the excavations at the ancient Jewish village in 2011, not expecting to find such a monumental building, let alone the extensive and stunning mosaics of Biblical and non-Biblical scenes that pave the synagogue. These depictions have captured the imaginations of scholars, as they complicate our understandings of Jewish life, art, and synagogue worship in late antiquity.

As it was my second season at the site, I was able to take on more responsibility in the excavations as a square supervisor and area registrar. I am so appreciative to have had this opportunity, as it was pivotal in my archaeological experience to handle more facets of the project and excavation process. Some of my responsibilities included detailed registration of finds in our database, section drawing and interpretation, daily paperwork, and excavation supervision of students in my square. In our area of the site, we were uncovering this year’s most important mosaics and delicate architectural features, so we worked in tandem with site conservators and had to operate with increased caution as we exposed invaluable material. The experience of excavation with conservation in mind from the moment we begin uncovering finds will shape how I view archaeological fieldwork in the future as well as the handling of material culture.

I am so grateful to have been able to contribute to the excavation and facilitation of such an important project for our understanding of Jewish life. Further, the opportunity to work with a team of such talented and experienced archaeologists who each bring a unique perspective to the project has been invaluable to my growth as an archaeologist, and I feel incredibly lucky to have had the experience. The Huqoq 2018 season was an exceptional experience, and I am thankful to the Biblical Archaeology Society for making it possible.

Learn more about the Huqoq Mosaics here >>

John Steinhoff

Horvat Midras

I would like to thank the Biblical Archaeology Society for their generous support that allowed me to visit Israel for the first time and participate in the unique excavation of Horvat Midras. The site, 45 km southwest of Jerusalem, features a remarkable wealth of the material culture of the Jewish, Christian, and Roman pagan communities. Based on the identification of the site with ancient Drusias, scholars have suggested that the site was populated by the Idumean elite, perhaps including the family of King Herod the Great. A significant interest of mine is the underground passageways used during the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome, the so-called Bar-Kokhba Revolt from 132–135 C.E. The excavation presented an unparalleled opportunity to further my understanding of ancient military operations used by and against the Romans through the material culture of the Horvat Midras site, as well as weekend visits to other major archaeological sites throughout Israel.


Each weekday morning on the Kibbutz started before the sun came up with a symphony of four roommates’ alarms blaring at 4:30 a.m. The students from the University of British Columbia and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, along with the wonderful staff, would meet in the main dining hall at 5am to have a quick breakfast of coffee and cookies before loading the vans with supplies for the day. It was a short ten-minute ride to the site. After unloading the vans and storage containers at the base camp, we would make the trek up the hill (which seemed to get longer as time went on) to one of the three areas that were being excavated this past season. The three areas consisted of a possible Roman temple (area A), the entrance to an underground tunnel (area B), and a small pyramid (area D). I was assigned to area A, which would become my home away from home for nearly three weeks.

I was blessed to have a brilliant area manager named Asaf and his knowledgeable assistant Mustafa, both graduate students from Hebrew University. Additionally, I was fortunate to have two wonderful square-mates, Jenna and Shuli. The main goal in our 5 x 5-meter square was to continue to expose a section of the southern wall of the structure to determine its extent and character on the inner and outer face. The first week plus of excavating consisted of removing backfill and upper soil levels. I filled and hauled countless buckets full of earth to the nearby dump pile. The pickaxe was my weapon of choice, although I spent many hours with other tools as well. Utilizing a sledgehammer to smash large stones that had fallen from the wall and lost context was a favorite task of mine. It became a sort of sport to many of the participants in area A, with yells of encouragement and cheers after huge chunks fractured from the stone. As digging continued, we started utilizing a bucket chain to assist the groups further away from the dump pile. Weeks later I can still here the familiar shouts of “Bucket chain!” in my mind.

After a week plus of digging, we started to notice a change in soil composition and the quality in pottery. We discovered several sherds of Red African slipware with its distinctive color and coating. Up until this point we had only found coarse pottery from a much later period, most likely Mamluk, according to our pottery expert. Russell, the metal-detecting technician, found several coins in our square while doing his daily sweeps. Although exhausting at times, each small find fueled my excitement and appreciation for what I was doing. We changed to more sensitive tools like a trowel, brush, and dustpan as we descended deeper into our square. Near the end of the second week we heard the familiar “clank” of stone. As we slowly removed the earth, we realized it was not a fallen stone at all. Still perfectly smooth and jointed after all this time, we had found a strip of paving stones. Although mundane to some, I felt as though we had found the most beautiful mosaic in the world. We had achieved our goal of finding the base of the temple and exposing the inner face of the wall. Although not in our square, another group discovered the negative imprint of a vault near the center of the structure on one of the last days of the excavation. This stirred a bit of excitement for future seasons at this area to explore if this structure had a subterranean level and what it might entail.

In addition to the wonderful experience of working in the field and learning different skills, such as making top plans, measuring elevations, learning proper collection techniques, and producing profiles, we were fortunate to have many experts from Israel give lectures in the afternoons and evenings. We visited the tell at Lachish, the ancient cisterns and olive presses at Maresha, and learned the history of the Kibbutz in Israel. Even more exciting and invigorating were the weekend trips to different cities and historical sites throughout Israel. We spent the first weekend in Jerusalem touring some of the main sites. Walking the Via Dolorosa was overwhelming for me and others at times. Seeing the Israel Museum and the Dead Sea Scrolls was amazing. Visiting the Dead Sea itself and the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve the following weekend was also unique. Exploring Tel Aviv and the old city of Jaffa provided a change of pace and a day of fun adventuring. For me, though, certainly due to my research of the Roman army and love of ancient architecture, the highlight of our weekend trips was our visit to Masada. I don’t have the proper words to describe the feeling of looking down at the Roman siege camps from the terraces of Herod’s palace. I will never forget those moments and the rest of this magnificent journey.

Thank you again to BAS for your gracious investment into my academic and personal goals, which would not have been possible without it.

Shawny Tucker


shawny-tucker-bhdI was fortunate enough this summer to spend a month of my summer digging in Lower Galilee at the ancient village Shikhin under the direction of Dr. James R. Strange, a professor of the New Testament at Samford University. The experience was extremely fulfilling, interesting, and one I will never forget. I was able to ask questions, make mistakes, and learn from everything I did on the Shikhin site.

The first couple of days I learned more than I even thought possible and was taught how to appropriately and efficiently navigate an archaeological field site while performing the tasks set for the day. I was given the position of Assistant Square Supervisor in Square 22 of the site, where we uncovered a lamp mold, a complete Herodian lamp, many lamp fragments, a piece of Persian pottery (perhaps a base), an Iron age Kernos cultic vessel, and many other objects. I never thought I would be finding so many cool artifacts here! After the first week, I noticed something: I was beginning to recognize the various rims we were finding for what they were, and could tell whether they were from a jar, jug, krater, cup, cooking pot, etc. and roughly which time period they may have come from. Just by observation and developing experience, I was becoming familiar with pottery reading. Not only that, but I was learning more about what can be deduced by looking at architectural fragments by what we have found of our synagogue on site and then from the other various foundations we were still learning from.

The longer I spent on site, the more I learned, and now I feel extremely comfortable saying I know how to dig at an ancient site. Not only that, but I have found something I am more passionate about than anything else I have done. I was considering going into archaeology, but now I know that is what I want to do. I felt such excitement in Israel while I was studying and working; I fell in love with the field. It is such a blessing to have found what I want to do with the rest of my life this early on, and I am grateful to the Biblical Archaeology Society for helping to make that possible. I could not have gone without their generous scholarship. This trip made such an impact on my life, and in a way it felt like it gave me a future I could more easily see in knowing which career I want to pursue.

Not only did I work on site in a square digging, I also visited other nearby sites and attended lectures almost every afternoon that pertained to the history of Israel and Galilee. The entire trip I was learning and exposed to history in ways that would have been impossible anywhere but at Shikhin.

I will always be grateful for the help the Biblical Archaeology Society gave me in going on my first dig. And I cannot wait to continue my archaeological career and return to Israel.

Rebecca Zami

Tell es-Safi/Gath

Digging at Tell es-Safi/Gath was an absolute blast. The intense physical labor required to handle a pickaxe made the skin on my hands tough and the muscles in my legs increasingly strong. The amount of sweat my body released was a testament to the amount of buckets of soil I hauled across the area. My brain ran in circles attempting to process the thousands of years of history my own hands was uncovering. These sensations were fierce and yet so deeply therapeutic. The smile on my face and the laughs I shared with my team from over the balks of our 4.5 x 4.5-meter squares were endless. Sharing pride in each other’s small finds was essential to our team’s progress. This expedition has not only been a significant learning experience in my road to becoming a successful archaeologist, but has also given me a plethora of reasons to love the field more than I ever thought I could.


University students rarely get to experience the professor-student bond that I’ve gotten in the field. Working alongside my professor, watching her handle hefty digging tools, and sitting together at meals and lectures break down the hierarchical student-teacher archetype, allowing me to learn new skills straight from her worked hands. Also, seeing your professor swing a pickaxe into untouched soil after a year of sitting behind a desk presenting slideshows is quite the sight.

My fellow area workers and I grew as a unit over the first few weeks, as well. Sympathizing with one another’s excruciating difficulty of clearing away decomposed mudbrick and longing for the coffee break brought us together as a team. We fought over what music to play, using empty pottery buckets as the amplifier, and collectively exclaimed at the start of a song we all love. Joking about each other’s individual techniques in the field and teasing each team member about his/her subtle quirks enabled our seemingly rote fieldwork to be a bit more unpredictable and exciting, giving us some motivation to wake up before dawn.

My experience digging at Tell es-Safi has taught me way more than just the details of Iron Age ceramics and the process of firing mudbricks; I’ve come to understand the purpose of organized methodology, in and out of the excavation process. I realize what being a team player is all about—not simply complying with the instructions of one’s superiors, but contributing to the team in any way possible, by way of suggestions of different techniques, interpretations of the finds, and exuding an overall enthusiasm for the site’s potential and the work being done. Tell es-Safi/Gath was perfect for me in that way; although the site had already been excavated for 20 years, understanding that Israel, as well as the earth as a whole, always has more to uncover is a driving force in my passion to pursue archaeology in the 21st century. Seeing the use of magnetometry and LiDAR technologies among other developments at Tell es-Safi allows me to see a future in which archaeology penetrates deeper and more precisely into the rich history of the Biblical and global past.

I am grateful to Biblical Archaeology Society for enabling me to learn the basics of an excavation, the immense detail encompassed in the small- and large-scale finds, and the dedication that I must show going forward in my pursuit of Bible studies and archaeology, combining my passions in a way that allows me to understand my personal history while unearthing the history of the world around me.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to volunteer on an archaeological dig? I Volunteered For This?! Life on an Archaeological Dig is a free eBook that gives you the lowdown on what to expect from life at a dig site. You’ll be glad to have this informative, amusing and sometimes touching collection of articles by archaeological dig volunteers.


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