Life as an Archaeology Volunteer at Bethsaida, Israel

BAS makes a visit to one of Israel’s top archaeology field schools

In this exclusive video from the Biblical Archaeology Society, educational programs director Sarah Yeomans takes you on a behind-the-scenes tour of the excavations at Bethsaida in Israel. The excavation, directed for more than 20 years by University of Nebraska at Omaha professor Rami Arav, has revealed numerous insights into life at the time of Jesus and is also one of Israel’s top archaeology field schools.

The video tour, shot on location in Bethsaida, Israel, during the summer 2010 field season, begins with a brief introduction to Bethsaida, a small village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee that, according to the New Testament, saw Jesus perform two of his most famous miracles: the healing of the blind man (Mark 8:22–25) and the feeding of the multitudes (Luke 9:12–17). And while the Bethsaida excavations have revealed numerous insights into everyday life in Jesus’ Galilee during the first century C.E., the site’s origins are actually found in the tenth century B.C.E.—the time of King David—when Bethsaida was part of the small kingdom of Geshur mentioned several times in the Hebrew Bible (Joshua 13:13; 2 Samuel 13:37).

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.

After this introduction, Sarah takes you on a tour of some of the areas of Bethsaida that are currently being studied and excavated, including the so-called “house of the fisherman” where archaeologists found a well preserved, Hellenistic-era courtyard house filled with net weights, anchors, needles and fishhooks.* You are also introduced to some of the project’s staff and volunteers, including six-year veteran excavator and supervisor Aaron Gale, professor of religious studies at West Virginia University, and three-year archaeology volunteer Gloria Epps who loves coming to dig at Bethsaida because it gives her “another perspective on Biblical history.” You’ll also meet Dr. Carl Savage, the assistant director of the Bethsaida excavations, who has been digging at the site for more than 15 years.

Throughout the video tour, Sarah also gives you a candid perspective about life as an archaeology volunteer at Bethsaida, Israel, from the 4:45 a.m. wake-up calls, to the afternoons filled with pottery washing and analysis, to the various tools and equipment that archaeologists use to collect data. If you want to read more about Sarah’s experience as an archaeology volunteer and supervisor at the site of Bethsaida, you can also check out her article “The Simple Joy of Digging.”



* See Rami Arav, Richard A. Freund and John F. Shroder, Jr., “Bethsaida Rediscovered,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2000.


Learn more about Bethsaida in Bible History Daily:

Bethsaida Excavations Reveal Path of the Apostles

Judaea Capta Coin Uncovered in Bethsaida Excavations

Bethsaida Excavations Reveal Possible Royal Escape Tunnel


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  • Amanda says

    I would like to volunteer for the next round of excavations.
    In 2003 I volunteered at Tel Dor under Prof Hirschfield.

    Kindly advise

    Patrys Wolmarans
    Port Elizabeth
    South Africa

  • FE Siegenthaler says

    Why does she keep calling it “Biblical Tradition” instead of ‘Biblical History’?
    Is it fact or fiction?

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