Excavate Jesus’s Roman Galilee

Hear from past volunteers who excavated Shikhin

Jourdan Barnett and Dakota Damato conserve a Roman period wall at Shikhin/Asochis in 2019 Credit: Jourdan Barnett

Want a first-hand look at life in Roman Galilee? Investigate history for yourself this summer as part of the Shikhin excavation team, which will be in the field from May 30 to June 24, 2022! According to Dr. James Strange, co-director of the excavations, “People interested in the historical Jesus and the Galilean origins of both Christianity and Judaism will find much to interest them.” The hilltop village of Shikhin is located a short walk from Sepphoris, the largest city of Roman Galilee. Referred to as Asochis by the historian Josephus, Shikhin was an important Roman pottery production center closely tied to its larger neighbor. The 2022 dig season will include the reconstruction and firing of an ancient ceramics kiln on site.

But what is it like to excavate at such an incredible site? To learn more, Biblical Archaeology Review reached out to past volunteers who excavated at Shikhin. Their answers have been lightly edited for clarity and readability.

What is it like to dig at Shikhin?

Co-director James Strange sorting pottery from the site of Shikhin in the Roman Galilee.
Credit: Photo Courtesy Jane Foncea.

“Between Dr. Strange and the other experts, we were inundated with amazing scholarly content on the history of the places we visited, and at Shikhin, we got to be part of rediscovering that history for future generations.” – Bryant Moore

“Digging at Shikhin was incredible. It’s rare that you get an opportunity to learn about history in such a tactile way, and it really changes the way you connect with the stories and experiences of people from the past.” – Jane Foncea


What did you learn while digging at the site?

Pam Murdoch, showing a find from the site of Shikhin in the Roman Galilee. Photo Courtesy Stan and Pam Murdoch.

“We learned how to ‘dig,’ with step-by-step teamwork, detailing what each layer had to tell us. We learned how even the smallest sherd could be important! We also had enlightening classes every evening to understand the time period of our dig.” – Stan and Pam Murdoch

“Working with the Shikhin Excavation Project has taught me about culture, both ancient and modern. Learning and understanding ancient culture has better helped me understand the Bible and given me an idea of how those people lived.” – Stetson Pevear

“I learned how to engage in an educated conversation about archaeology and gained a small understanding of how to date ancient pottery based on its characteristics.” – Anna Ozment


What are some of your favorite memories of Shikhin?

“One of the best parts of the dig are the professors. Most of them are seasoned archaeologists, but all are brilliant scholars. When traveling to different archaeological sites, they are our guides to cities that they have studied and often excavated.” – Stetson Pavear

“At the start of the dig, we constantly were checking with our square leader to make sure the rocks we found weren’t significant archaeological finds. By the end, it was an ongoing joke to bring every single rock we found to her. We even covered her chair and bag in rocks we collected.” – Jane Foncea

“My favorite memories are the raw and real moments you share with the team. There’s nothing that brings a group closer than a 3:00 AM wake-up call, digging in pajama pants in the 100 degree dry heat, and dodging spiders all day long while brushing and sifting and staying hydrated.” – Anna Ozment


What aspects of the dig did you enjoy the most?

“I love getting to see the progression of the dig come together at the end of the week when each square gives a report on what they are finding, how they interpret their findings, and what that means in relation to the village of Shikhin.” – Stetson Pevear

“We enjoyed the challenge that even in our 60’s we could work alongside college students and learn together. We enjoyed watching our group discover artifacts that had been lost in time, for over 1,500 years, and hold them in our hands!” – Stan and Pam Murdoch


Jane Foncea excavating at the site of Shikhin in the Roman Galilee.
Credit: Photo Courtesy Jane Foncea.

What advice would you give to others about volunteering for a dig at Shikhin?

“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s the most fun you’ll ever have and the most you’ll ever learn in a month’s time.” – Bryant Moore

“You can do it! Come ready to learn, work hard, and be blessed!” – Stan and Pam Murdoch

“Go! An opportunity like this is irreplaceable.” – Anna Ozment

“Make the most of your time there. Be exhausted. If a professor is taking a day trip to an extra or optional site, go!” – Stetson Pevear

“Fear of going to an unknown place that has an unfamiliar language can deter people, but you cannot let your fear of the unknown stop you from such an incredible experience.” – Jane Foncea


Learn more about how you can take part in the excavations at dozens of archaeological sites around the Middle East by visiting our Digs page. And to learn how you can get involved in the Shikhin project, visit their website and check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, if you need support to join a dig, be sure to check out the BAS Dig Scholarship program.

FREE ebook: Paul: Jewish Law and Early Christianity. Paul’s dual roles as a Christian missionary and a Pharisee.

* Indicates a required field.


Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Digs 2021: Digging During a Pandemic

Digs 2019: A Day in the Life

Digs 2018: Migration and Immigration in Ancient Israel

Digs 2017: Digging Through Time

Digs 2016: Passport to the Biblical World 

Digs 2015: Blast from the Past

Digs 2014: Layers of Meaning 

Related Posts

Kuttamuwa Stele (eighth century BCE), a funerary stela with Aramaic inscription from Samʾal (modern Zincirli) in southern Turkey. CC by-SA 4.0 International, via Wikimedia Commons.
Apr 5
What Is Aramaic?

By: Clinton J. Moyer

Apr 3
Digitizing Ancient Seals

By: Elizabeth Knott

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend