• Name: Paul McLerran
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Friday, June 30, 2006

In the Field: New Finds at Bethsaida Highlight the Fifth Week of Excavations

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The fifth week of excavations at the site of ancient Bethsaida in Israel have recently revealed some interesting new finds.........particularly in the area where Hellenistic/Roman period remains are being uncovered. Among the discoveries: a wine cellar and a well-preserved Hellenistic silver coin. Visit the website for more information.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Sauropods of St. George

St. George, Utah -- Nestled among the red cliffs, volcanic formations and ancient layer cake sediments of an American southwest desert landscape, the populous town of St. George, Utah, is best known for its imposing Mormon temple and sites representing Mormon pioneer history. But take a closer look, and you will find perhaps the largest collection of dinosaur footprints in the world. Housed in the newly constructed exhibition hall of the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm, a huge, ever-expanding collection of natural cast dinosaur footprints, swimming marks, and tail-drag impressions will no doubt emerge as the world's premiere site for early Jurassic dinosaur prints. The exhibition also includes natural casts of mud cracks, actual dinosaur skin impressions, fossilized bones, and the impressions and remains of other lifeforms representative of the environment that existed here at that time. Of particular interest to the scientific community, the site presents the earliest known evidence of sauropod dinosaurs in North America, as well as a "virtual snapshot" of an Early Jurassic (195 million year old) lake ecosystem that existed when the American continent was part of the supercontinent called Pangea.
See the website for more information.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Dig Spotlight: Excavating Sodom

If you are familiar with the classic stories of the Bible, you will remember the Old Testament story that comes to mind about Lot and the infamous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Their actual locations on the archaeological landscape have long been the subject of scholarly debate. One prominent scholar, Dr. Steven Collins of Trinity Southwest University, now suggests that the largely unexcavated Bronze Age site of Tall el-Hammam in Jordan just north of the Dead Sea is indeed the remains of the ancient city of Sodom. As Director of the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project, he is now leading a team of scholars, students and volunteers in a long term investigation to confirm that hypothesis and bring to light its architectural and artifact remains. You can read more about this fascinating project at the website. Excavations will continue from December 23, 2006 through February 7, 2007. If you are interested in participating, contact Dyan Bowman at Trinity Southwest University, 505-332-4253 ext 1325 for details.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Bethsaida Project Summer Season Underway

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At an elevated location not far from the north shore of the Sea of Galilee lies what remains of a place identified with some of the miracles of Jesus (healing of a blind man, walking on water, and feeding of the multitudes). Birthplace of three of the Apostles (Andrew. Peter, and Philip), this site is now yielding the remains of Bethsaida, the famous town mentioned so often in the Gospels of the New Testament and, along with Capernaum, associated with the ministry of Jesus. What makes the ancient town doubly exciting, however, is what lies deeper beneath the Hellenistic/Roman layers. In 1996, while going about business as usual during the 1996 excavation season, Dr. Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska, Omaha, began to peal away layers that covered an Iron Age city gate complex rivaling the great city gate complexes found at other great ancient sites such as Megiddo and Hazor. The complex proved to be part of a large Iron Age city that is now identified by scholars as very likely the capital of the Kingdom of Geshur, which figured prominently in events associated with ancient Israel’s King David.

The Bethsaida Excavation Project began it's summer 2006 season on May 22 with a team of 40 students and volunteers. Within the first week, excavators had uncovered additional evidence of the 732 BCE destruction of the ancient city - bits of charcoal that remained within the debris of the collapsed floors that anciently overlay the area of excavation. Other finds included a possible portion of a stelae, and, in the Hellenistic-Roman period area of the tel, the bottom half of a cooking pot, part of a knife blade, a large nail, and a well-defined spindle whorl.

Dr. Arav's objectives for this season include unearthing more evidence of the 10th century (stratum 6) structures, including walls and more of the main city road. Work will also continue to uncover more of the Hellenistic-Roman era residential area.

Updates will continue to be posted at this site throughout the season. For details and photographs of the season start, see the
2006 Season Updates at the website.