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Showing posts from June, 2009

My Weekend of Free Time in Jerusalem - Part 1

To those so inclined to read this...

This past weekend was our first full weekend of free time here in Israel. At the last second I decided to travel with Michael Flowers, one of the other volunteers, to Jerusalem so that the taxi ride would cost less for both of us. Once we finally got in the taxi (about 45 minutes after it was at the hotel) we then picked up a third member to the party at one of the neighboring towns. I think we picked her up at Afula, but it could have been Haifa. We then continued east until we got to Bet She'an and then turned went south. This course of direction led us straight through the area known as The West Bank.

The entrance check point wasn't a big deal at all - we just drove straight on through. The change was immediate and easy to see as I went from the area just outside of the WB where there was a gas station and a small shopping area to the area just inisde of the WB where there was an old gas station no longer in operation (it was being u…

Jesus Town

Shalom from the Holy Land!My name is Caroline May and I'm a senior sociology major from Cedar Bluff, Alabama. Israel is my first trip abroad, but I've already decided that it won't be my last.
I'm hoping that students who are interested in studying archaeology in Israel or just in coming and experiencing this amazing place will find our posts useful and perhaps a little entertaining. Come. That's my advice if you're thinking about next summer or ever. It's unlike any other experience you will ever have in your life. Hello, you're on a REAL archaeological dig for a whole month with people who've been doing it forever so they know their stuff. Oh, and did I mention this all takes place in Israel? Because it does. I have to remind myself of that every so often when I wake up to the most amazing view. Okay, we've seen and done tons of stuff so I'm going to hit the highlights.
1.) Attef, the sweetest man alive and one of the brothers that…

3 weeks down, one more to go...

So I have been meaning to post on this blog for the past three weeks, and am finally doing it now. My name is Anna Wilgus, and I am a junior religion major from northeast Texas. I chose to come on the dig mainly because I just wanted to see the Holy Land and I am getting 4 credit hours to do so. I knew nothing about archaeology prior to this trip. I was curious, but it honestly was not my motivation for coming. But after spending three weeks digging up the earth at Sepphoris, archaeology has found a special place in my heart.
The first thing on the agenda upon arriving was to be split up into our squares. Each student was assigned to a small team of volunteers and one staff member who would be supervising the square. I was assigned to square 94, and my area supervisor is Joanna Strange, my professor's sister. The team met together one night before going out to the dig site, and Joanna did her best to explain to me what we would be doing every day. However to a completely i…

Dig Pictures

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Randy and Aaron excavating


Area Supervisor Randy O'Neal


Joanna Strange, Anna, and Virginia Skeeter drawing final top plan


Tommy again


Matt McRae


Lunch in the hotel dining room


Claudia Dold


Area Supervisor Dr. Connie Groh


Anna Wilgus taking notes in the square from Area Supervisor Joanna Strange


Glenn Downing


Jack Wilgus and Caroline May drawing top plan



Tommy Archer and a sherd from a Roman bowl


Matt McRae, Tommy Archer and Dr. Groh excavating a balk


Dr. Strange, Anna, Jack, Caroline and Glenn discussing stratification in the balk


Dr. Strange, Anna, Jack and Caroline reading the balk


Jack Wilgus and Glenn Downing


Caroline May and Glenn Downing sifting


Anna Wilgus pointing to the top stone of

First Week, final

Third Post, Installment 3The archaeology is going well, although we have had to purchase tools because another excavation at the nearby site of Cana has been borrowing ours and some have vanished into some parallel universe populated by odd socks from the dryer and repairmen who leave jobs half done. We had to order picks from a hardware store just down the street. The proprietor, whom I just met, invited me to have coffee with him when we pick up the tools. This is typical in the Middle East, where hospitality is dear.The Samford crew is approaching the task of archaeology with enthusiasm and curiosity. Many have been made Assistant Area Supervisors in their squares. Anna Wilgus literally jumped up and down when Joanna Strange asked if she would like to be an assistant. I asked Caroline May and Jack Wilgus which of them anticipated returning to Sepphoris or digging somewhere else. Since both expressed an interest, I named them as “co-assistants.” The only issue left to decide was who…

First Week, continued

Third Post, Installment 2Students also saw the 4th and 5th century synagogue floor at Hamat Tiberias, which was built of black basalt at the site of hot springs on the west coast of the Sea of Galilee. The wheel of the zodiac in the mosaic floor is a bit startling if you’ve never seen one in a synagogue before. I imagine it would be like encountering a large pentagram in the floor of the Washington Cathedral. It would have been the second zodiac we saw that day, but we missed the turnoff to Beit Alpha, where the 6th century synagogue sports a similar floor that was discovered in the 1920’s after the discovery of the one at Hamat Tiberias. Since those discoveries many more have been found, including one at Sepphoris.Next came swimming in the Sea of Galilee, which the students did with some enthusiasm. I was not surprised that all went in because earlier they all had piled out of the vans to photograph one another on the banks of the Jordan when we crossed on our way north from Beit She…

First Week

Third Post, Installment 1Because of its length, today’s post will be in three installments.I’m writing this on Sunday, June 14. We managed to get some archaeology done this week. It was a slow start for the USF Excavations because the National Parks Authority wanted us to have more insurance per digger than we did. And when we finally got into the field on Wednesday (at 8:30 am: 3 ½ hours late by our usual schedule!) we had to spend some time establishing our grid by stretching string from known points in the field, like the ancients did. It was a good lesson, but we all would have preferred a surveyor with a laser transit. We adjusted our schedule by moving our weekend tour to Tuesday and digging on Saturday.On the Tuesday tour Samford students got to see the partially reconstructed Roman and Byzantine city of Beit She’an. There is nothing else like it in Israel: one actually gets a feel for what a Roman city must have looked like, complete with a huge theater (one of the largest in …

Second E-mail to Samford

All the Samford students are making good impressions, and Aaron Carr is already being needled for knowing the right answer to many questions.  Today after lunch my sister Joanna took the Samford contingent to the suk I mentioned earlier and they seem to have had a good time.  This morning we toured the site of Sepphoris, which is large enough to consume 2 ½ hours of one’s time.  Students got their first look at what they’ll be digging, and I think enthusiasm rose a notch.  Tonight was the first lecture, Given by the elder Dr. Strange, and tomorrow we will tour sites in the Lower Galilee.  It should be a good day.  Caroline May, who seems enthusiastic about nearly everything, should be especially pleased.  We should begin digging on Wednesday.  Ruthie Wilkerson, a classics major, has agreed to put together a Facebook page for Samford Summer in Israel.  I figure this is a good way to market the trip, and I certainly don’t want to manage that page.Tommy Archer, a poli sci major, was maki…

First E-mail to Samford

Dear All,As I write this it is 3 pm in Birmingham and 11 pm in Israel.  We had an uneventful trip from Atlanta to Tel Aviv.  Our greatest challenge was getting everyone (our group plus others who arrived in the country the same day) up to our hotel in Nazareth, since we ended up being short a van, but that was easily solved by a sherut: a van-sized taxi that offers service to and from the airport. I and some of our group plus one other veteran took the sherut north to Haifa where we caught a cab to the Hotel Galilee.  It seemed there were Stranges everywhere: my father, who goes by “Abuna” in this country, my mother, my sister Joanna, and me.  Joanna is already taking over the mothering of Samford students, and when she’s not my own mother is.At the hotel we were greeted by old friends (we first lived here in 1983 when I was a college sophomore!) who fed us very good food, with a first course of hummous and Turkish salad, that the students exclaimed about.  Dessert was apples served w…

Welcome to the Samford Summer in Israel Blog!

Samford Summer in Israel is a program of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Samford students excavate in Israel for four weeks and receive credit for the course Field Methods in Archaeology, offered by Dr. James Riley Strange, Assistant Professor of Religion at Samford's Howard College of Arts and Sciences. This blog contains his logs as well as logs and photos from students on the trip. The first Samford Summer in Israel trip took place from June 5 to July 6 2009.

In 2009 and 2010 Samford students participated in the University of South Florida Excavations at Sepphoris, directed by Dr. James F. Strange (a.k.a. "Abuna"), Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at USF. In 2011 Samford students took part in a new project at the site of Shikhin near Sepphoris.

Visit the Samford Summer in Israel Facebook page by clicking the link to the right.

For more information about the department of religion at Samford University visit their web site at http://howard.samfor…