Excavating at Jezreel in Israel
The fifth season of the Jezreel Expedition sponsored by the University of Haifa and the University of Evansville, Indiana, began on May 29, 2016, as an international team of scholars and students came together with the common purpose of revealing the history of Jezreel. Mentioned more than 30 times in the Hebrew Bible, Jezreel, famous for the story of Naboth and his vineyard, was possibly Ahab and Jezebel’s second home and the setting for the dramatic events described in 1 Kings 21 and 2 Kings 9.
The site of Jezreel is large and rich, which is not surprising considering its strategic position at the narrowest spot in the Jezreel Valley, opposite the Biblical town of Shunam and halfway between Megiddo and Bet Shean. Jezreel also sits at the junction of the international highway known as the Via Maris—the Biblical Way of the Sea—and the north-south Way of the Patriarchs that winds from Jezreel south through the central highlands to Samaria and on to Jerusalem. Previous excavations at Tel Jezreel—actually a foothill of the Gilboa Mountain range rather than a proper tel—in the 1990s revealed a fortified rectangular enclosure believed by the excavators to have been built by Ahab in the ninth century B.C.E. The current Jezreel Expedition team is exploring greater Jezreel, which includes areas to the west, north and east of Tel Jezreel, in order to investigate the nature of settlement from the late Neolithic period through the 20th century C.E.
During an initial survey season in 2012 and three excavation seasons since, the team has explored the previously-unexcavated site just above the Spring of Jezreel (‘Ein Jezreel) and found evidence of intensive Early Bronze Age occupation as well as Iron Age and Roman/Byzantine remains. Survey and excavation in other parts of greater Jezreel revealed a Middle Bronze Age shaft tomb with bronze jewelry and Egyptian scaraboid seals, a rock-cut winery in use from the Iron Age through the early Roman period, and a network of roads that connected various parts of the site during the Roman, Medieval and Ottoman periods. Despite Jezreel’s prominence on the landscape and in the historical record, much remains to be learned of the site’s 7,000-year-old history of occupation, including the nature of the Israelite settlement on Tel Jezreel and its relationship to Tel ‘Ein Jezreel to its north.
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In addition to the core group of undergraduate students and alumni of the University of Evansville (UE) are graduate students, faculty and enthusiasts from varied backgrounds who are joining the team for two or four weeks this season. Robin La Rosa Hannig, who is pursuing a Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree from Jezreel Expedition consortium institution Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, PA, decided to join the team for two weeks in 2015 to further explore her longstanding interest in Biblical studies, history and archaeology. During this time, she was able to better imagine the context of the Biblical stories and learn about the different peoples who occupied the area over time through the discoveries she herself made in the dirt. Like many dig participants, Robin “caught the bug” and decided to return with a group of students from Moravian and Wesley Theological Seminary this year for the entire four-week season.
Lindsay Langstaff, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Global Business/Spanish from the University of Evansville, joins eight UE archaeology majors who are taking part in the 2016 season. In addition to giving her an understanding of and appreciation for the importance of archaeology, Lindsay is broadening her horizons through this immersive experience on a traditional Israeli kibbutz that happens to be home to several successful businesses. As Robin, Lindsay and our other valued team members can attest, you don’t have to be an archaeologist to dig the Bible; all you need is the willingness to get dirty (and a bit sore), the ability to work with a diverse international team and, of course, a sense of enthusiasm and adventure.
We look forward to reporting on our discoveries to Bible History Daily readers during the remainder of our field season, which ends June 24. We also post daily reports and photos to our Facebook page.
The Jezreel Expedition is a Register of Professional Archaeologists (RPA) approved and American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) affiliated project co-directed by Norma Franklin of the University of Haifa and Jennie Ebeling of the University of Evansville. Consortium members include Chapman University, Moravian Theological Seminary, University of Arizona, Vanderbilt University, Villanova University and Wesley Theological Seminary. We thank Sheila Bishop of the Foundation for Biblical Archaeology, Anchor Industries, Inc. of Evansville, IN, and many other donors for their generous contributions to the project. The Jezreel team stays on Kibbutz Yizre’el adjacent to the site during excavation seasons and we are most grateful to our hosts for their warm hospitality.
Jennie Ebeling is Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Evansville and Co-director of the Jezreel Expedition. Her research interests include ancient food and drink technology, women in Canaan and ancient Israel, and religion and cult in the Bronze and Iron Age Levant.
Norma Franklin is a Research Associate at the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa and Co-director of the Jezreel Expedition. Her research has focused on the three key cities of the Northern Kingdom of Israel: Samaria, Megiddo and Jezreel.
Jezreel Expedition Sheds New Light on Ahab and Jezebel’s City
Norma Franklin and Jennie Ebeling describe the use of survey archaeology and advanced LiDAR mapping on the Jezreel Expedition
How Bad Was Jezebel? by Janet Howe Gaines
Digs 2016: Passport to the Biblical World by Robin Ngo
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