As you know, archaeological fieldwork in Israel has been suspended and travel restrictions are currently in place, due to the Corvid-19 situation. But you can still enjoy all the splendors of the region’s archaeological heritage, from the comfort of your own home. Here are a few suggestions.
Drop into the front of a virtual tour of the ancient city of Megiddo: https://www.parks.org.il/en/new/take-a-virtual-tour-to-the-ancient-city-of-megiddo/
The Israel Museum is closed. So come on in!
The Israel Museum has developed a self-guided tour with panoramic views for you to enjoy.
But if you prefer to be lead by experts, you can learn about ‘Ramadan Nights: Sweet Dates and Symbolic Palm Trees’ from Liza Lurie, Curator of Islamic Art and Archaeology – or listen to Sharon Weiser-Ferguson and Eran Lederman explain the history of isolation in ‘Seated in Seclusion’.
One museum not enough?
Have we given you the travel bug yet? You can always swing over to the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East, and catch up with some wall reliefs from ancient Lachish and an Iron Age Israelite house.
Or head over to London, and the British Museum. There’s virtual tours of their many galleries to enjoy, including those covering the Levant, or a fascinating set of audio guides (and yes, the siege of Lachish features here too). They also do an excellent series of podcasts.
While there, you might as well stop by the British Library. They have a project called ‘Discovering Sacred Texts’, where you can enjoy the richness and diversity of around 300 texts from their collection, reflecting some of the world’s greatest faiths. Highlights include the 4th-century CE Codex Sinaiticus, one of the earliest Christian Bibles, the Ma’il Quran from the 8th century, and the first complete Mishnah from 1492.
You can explore these by theme, read articles and watch videos that help contextualise the material, or just delve into the individual object records. There’s some great online teaching resources as well.
Explore the Ben Ezra Synagogue
Perhaps you’d like to see the world-famous Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo in fabulous 3D, complete with architectural and decorative detail? It was here that the astonishing Geniza documents were once stored. AIAS members visited this collection of documents in Cambridge last summer and look forward to returning soon. https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=9sXzU9yY1gw
The Vatican’s Lapidarium
After stopping in Egypt, fly over to Rome to experience an extraordinary close-up view of the famous collection of Jewish funerary inscriptions recovered from Rome’s Jewish catacombs in the late 19th century.
Read all about it!
Back home? There are lots of great new books out there archaeology of Israel to discover. Obviously we can’t tell you about them all. But here’s a few that have caught our eye lately, that we think you might find of interest.
The Palestine Exploration Fund has just published a new book by Ken Dark, ‘Roman Period and Byzantine Nazareth and its Hinterland’.
Note that AIAS members are entitled to a 20% discount off this title, as well as 20% of all Routledge/Taylor & Francis books. Click here to visit our members-only part of the website, where you can get your discount codes. Note that this part of the website is password protected – contact our secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are a current member, but have forgotten, or not yet received your password.
Staying on the theme of iconic sites, another fresh title is R. Sparks, B. Wagemakers, B. Finlayson and J. Briffa eds, ‘Digging up Jericho: Past, Present, Future’. This looks at old and new excavations at the site, as well as the management of the cultural heritage of the wider Jericho oasis.
If you find the history of archaeological excavations as interesting as we do, you might enjoy M.L. Steiner and B. Wagemaker’s account of the work of Dutch Archaeologist, Henk Franken – ‘Digging up the Bible? The Excavations at Tell Deir Alla, Jordan (1960-1967)‘.
Or if it is thrills, spills and devious political machinations of past excavations that take your fancy, why not check out Eric Cline’s new book, ‘Digging up Armageddon? The Search for the Lost City of Solomon’. This is the story about Megiddo that they didn’t want you to know.
And yes, 2020 does seem to be the year of books titled ‘Digging up so-and-so’. It’s like buses; there are none for ages, then they all come along together.
Finally, the CREWS project have recently published a new book on ancient writing systems: ‘Understanding Relations Between Scripts II. Early Alphabets’. Edited by P. Steele and P.J. Boyes, if you are interested in the development and use of early alphabets, from the Levant and Egypt to the Mediterranean world, then this might be the book for you.
Excavations in Israel and other useful links
OK, so nobody is digging right now. But we hope to be able to dust off our trowels and take to the field again sometime in the not-so-distant future. So keep your eyes peeled for news of projects starting up again, and new opportunities to take part in excavations.
Although the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society does not organize any digs in Israel itself, there are many excavations available that invite volunteer participation – and lots of places to find out about them. Volunteers should be in good physical condition and be able to work long hours in very hot weather. Each expedition will have its own accommodation arrangements and a fee is often charged. Most expeditions offer lectures on subjects related to the excavation, occasional trips in the area to sites and/or museums and some offer course credits.
Please note that the Society does not advise on or recommend specific digs nor can it accept any responsibility for the information given in the links below. Volunteers will need to correspond directly with the dig organizers. Any questions, comments or correspondence must be directed to the dig director and not the Society. Having said that, we hope you will find something to suit you and that you have a wonderful time on your chosen dig.
Archaeological Institute of America
The AIA provides an Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities Bulletin that you can search online. This is updated regularly throughout the year.
Biblical Archaeology Society
This site is run by the Biblical Archaeology Society and covers digs in Europe as well as in Israel and the Levant. It gives a comprehensive listing, an in-depth description of each dig including its location, historical and Biblical significance, what you will be doing while on the dig and information on the dig directors and professors who will lead the project.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Details of the Archaeology Institute at the Hebrew University’s current digs and links to the relevant site.
Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs also provides an annual list of archaeological expeditions which accept volunteers.
Other useful links:
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology website gives details of current digs, recent publications and research and information about the Institute’s library. The Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society is affiliated to the Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
British Friends of the Hebrew University
The British Friends of the Hebrew University (BFHU) is a national charity which raises funds for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the UK and promotes its breakthroughs and discoveries.
British Association of Near Eastern Archaeology
BANEA was founded in 1988 with the following objectives:
To promote the study of the archaeology, history, and languages of the ancient Near East at all levels; to provide a forum for discussion, and for the dissemination of information on these topics; and to enhance the provision of opportunities for such studies in Britain.
Council for British Research in the Levant
The CBRL supports and develops British research in the Levant. It supports scholars in the fields of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences through its grant awards scheme and Post-doctoral Fellowships. Its regional centres are in Amman and Jerusalem.
Israel Antiquities Authority
The Israel Antiquities Authority is responsible for all excavations in Israel.
Jewish Historical Society
The Jewish Historical Society is the oldest historical and learned society of its kind in Europe. The Society, based in London, has active branches in a number of centres and meets regularly with lectures on a wide range of subjects relating to Anglo-Jewish history, and publishes its biennial transactions known as Jewish Historical Studies. Several of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society’s Manchester lectures are held in conjunction with the JHSE Manchester branch.
Levantine Ceramics Project
This project was set up to create an open-source website of pottery in the Levant dating from the Neolithic to the Ottoman period.
Palestine Exploration Fund
The purpose of the PEF is to promote research into the archaeology and history, manners and customs and culture, topography, geology and natural sciences of biblical Palestine and the Levant. They have offices in London, where you will find their research collections of artefacts, photographs and field records.
Tel Aviv University
This university hosts the Institute of Archaeology and Department of Archaeology & Ancient Near Eastern Civilization.