Students dig Israeli archaeolgy
By Ashleigh Bugg
While others are relaxing or working at home this summer, Dr. Stephen Von Wyrick and a select group of students will get their hands dirty.
Wyrick, who teaches Hebrew, archaeology and Old Testament, is leading an excavation at the city of Tel Gezer in Israel.
“Students learn everything archaeologists do. They will work on site with people from all over the world. There are doctors, lawyers, botanists… people from all disciplines, but we all move dirt together,” Wyrick said.
The Israel study abroad trip will count for 12 semester hours. It is open to all UMHB students, not just Christian studies or archaeology majors. Credit can be earned for social science, art and world issues.
Participants will spend a month in the field and learn to take levels and measurements, work with ancient pottery and make field notes.
“Students will engage in original research. They’re not just reading about it in a textbook or hearing about it from someone who has never been. They will learn about a people group that shaped much of Western society,” Wyrick said.
Although Wyrick is interested in the biblical significance of the excavation, he maintains that the trip’s main goal is for the cultural and academic value.
“I don’t want students to go over there to try to prove the Bible,” he said. “Archaeology was not designed to prove the Bible. It is interesting when what we find intersects with Scripture, but we are trying to understand how people in that area lived.”
In Israel, students will interact with a diverse group, including graduate students from Oxford.
“We have people who are Muslims, Christians, Jews and atheists excavating…. We are all curious about humans, about how this group lived and worked nearly 2,800 years ago,” Wyrick said.
Freshman Christian studies major Leah White is especially excited about the trip.
“I mean it’s Israel. We study about it but to actually be able to go there… to see what we are learning in a tangible form. It’s awesome,” White said.
Students pay $9,180 for tuition; the actual trip is free for students.
“Travel from site to site alone would cost over $5,000. It’s never been more convenient for students to go,” Wyrick said.
Archaeological expeditions evoke images of roughing it in tent cities covered in ancient dust. However, students will stay in a resort called Nev Shalom or Oasis of Peace.
Despite the luxury of air conditioning, the trip is not for the faint of heart.
“Our day starts at 4:00 a.m.…. We work hard. We move a lot of dirt. It’s intense but a lot of fun. Students who have gone with me before keep coming back,” Wyrick said.
Sophomore public relations major Leah Bunker is ready for the challenge.
“I’ve always wanted to travel in the Middle East, and this is a great way to get credit,” she said.
White also relishes the opportunity to explore past civilizations.
“Archaeology has always been this dream activity,” she said. “You hear about it a lot, but few get to go. It’s a long lost dream come true.”