Friday, January 23, 2015

Blast from the Past: UNC Charlotte's excavation in Jerusalem.

UNC Charlotte students who are interested in religion, history, and/or archaeology are being given a very unique opportunity unlike anything other universities in the United States have to offer.
I’m speaking of the excavation currently taking place in Jerusalem under academic oversight of the University – the only American university licensed in Jerusalem to carry out excavations. This project, which is located in Jerusalem in an area called “Mount Zion,” gives students the opportunity to unearth the rich history of the land first hand, while learning about the cultures that once inhabited them.
Map of the location of the excavation.

This ongoing project is spear headed by Dr. James Tabor, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte, and Dr. Shimon Gibson.
While there have been many intriguing finds at the site, the most notable was discovered in 2013. Archaeologists believe to have found the well-preserved lower levels of an early Roman period mansion. Particularly intriguing is the well-furnished bathroom, complete with a bathtub, adjacent from the mikveh: a large belowground pool used for cleansing. This addition is a sign of status and wealth of the resident that lived in this part of the site.  Usually, bathrooms of this type are only found in palatial buildings.
The bathroom found in the mansion, adjacent to the Mikveh

Early excavations revealed a wide array of finds including a stamped handle
that could be traced back to the second Iron Age, houses, pottery, and coins from the Early Roman age, a mosaic floor thought to be from the Byzantine era, more building traced back to the Early Islamic age, remains thought to be the remnants of a battle in the Crusader era,  and Porcelain from China and other foreign lands traced to the Late Ottoman era.


            What is so remarkable about this site is how well preserved the artifacts seem to be, due to, at least in part, to the construction work during Byzantine times. During that time, in order to make a foundation to support new buildings, an artificial leveling fill of stones, soil, and other debris were poured atop the remains of the Early Roman period houses.
Looking down into the lower level of the mansion. 

“The area got submerged,” said Gibson. “That’s why we found an unusually well-preserve set of stratigraphic levels.”

            This is not the first time this site has been excavated. Back in the 1970’s, Magen Broshi of the Israeli Museum, conducted excavations in this area. Later, in 2000 and 2005, and then largely in 2007, excavations were resumed by UNC Charlotte under a license from the Israeli Antiquities Authority and the Israeli Park Authority.

            If you are a student of UNC Charlotte that is interested in knowing more about this awesome opportunity you can find more information about the dig, as well as information on getting involved in their 2015 season, which we be on June 14th through July 10th, 2015, at the Dig Mount Zion website, https://digmountzion.uncc.edu.

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