“So why are you here?” a fellow dig member asked. We were telling our back stories and I had just told him that I’m not a graduate student fulfilling an academic requirement, like many of the Gezer volunteers. He seemed to wonder why in the world I would come here. My answer was simple. I want to handle the data. An archaeological excavation is a chance to handle some of the data points that historians, theologians, and teachers use to construct our understanding of life in the ancient world. The Bible represents a massive set of data points, but it leaves many questions unanswered. For example, when the Bible speaks of gates and the business conducted there, it does not provide a picture of those structures. Archaeological excavations, however, have uncovered many, many gates in Israel and provide complementary data points which help us understand scripture more accurately. Of course, archaeological data, like Biblical data, must be interpreted. That interpretive process can be saddled with presuppositions that bias the results and lead to inappropriate conclusions. We have all heard the wild ideas presented as fact in popular television programs. Often these ideas are based upon archaeological data that has been interpreted through a biased lens and presented as the only possible interpretation. In terms of professional development, my goal is to gain skill in understanding how this kind of data is uncovered and interpreted so that I can be a better teacher. It really is quite the experience to uncover a wall from the time of the United Monarchy of Israel, or as we did last week, to remove a wall from the time of Solomon.
We’ve been a having a great time on the dig. I’ve become accustomed to getting up at 4:30 am every morning and then putting in a 17 hour day. We have two weeks left. Nathan has jumped in with both feet and is loving this experience. He ditched the square I was working in for another that had a cowboy supervisor, and two college aged guys working in it. It has turned out to be a growing time for him. The supervisor is a Pastor who has really taken Nathan under his wing, and Nathan has earned the respect of his square mates. It’s fun to watch them treat him as a regular member of the team. You can watch a short video of his experience here. While weeks days are a blur of dirt and dust, weekends are for touring. Last week we visited Beersheba, Arad and the southern parts of the Dead Sea. This weekend we’re off to the ancient city of Joppa and Aphek as a family. On Sunday I’ll join a group of Lancaster Bible College students on a tour through the West Bank. We’re headed for Shiloh, Samaria, and Mt. Gerizim.