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Davis leads archaeological digs in Israel, Greece

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Davis leads archaeological digs in Israel, Greece

Chad Villhauer ('18) at an excavation in Greece.

Chad Villhauer ('18) at an excavation in Greece.

Photo courtesy of Dan Davis

Chad Villhauer ('18) at an excavation in Greece.

Photo courtesy of Dan Davis

Photo courtesy of Dan Davis

Chad Villhauer ('18) at an excavation in Greece.

Gillian Klein, Staff Writer

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Professor of Classics Dan Davis will lead two archaeological excavations in Israel and Greece in early May. Five students and faculty will attend.

This four-week summer program is an introduction to archaeological excavation techniques such as digital reconstruction, artifact processing, and architectural survey. Students could choose between visiting Israel, Greece, or both. This year will be the first expedition that includes Israel.

Three students will travel to Israel and two students to Greece. According to  Zachary Ziarnik (‘20), the trip is offered to every student regardless of major.

“I had never been on an archaeological dig before,” Ziarnik said. “I am an anthropology major and my interest in Israel was one of the motivating factors for this trip, not really my major.”

Davis’s experiences on previous trips to Greece motivated him to continue leading excavation experiences.

“I see a combination of experiences come together on these trips,” Davis said. “Everyone takes away something different each year.”

Since 2011, the classics department has partnered with the University of Maryland and Vanderbilt University to offer students the opportunity to participate in archaeological excavations in Greece or Israel. The director of the project is Associate Professor of Classical and Mediterranean Studies at Vanderbit University Joseph Rife.

Davis’s connections with Vanderbilt have made the trip possible.

“Joseph Rife and I have been friends many years,” Davis said. “It’s wonderful that, through this connection, we offer students exposure to ancient archaeological ruins.”

Photo courtesy of Dan Davis
Allison Simms (’18) takes part in a dig.

Students accepted on the Israel trip began preparing early this semester for the departure. The trip will go from May 9 to June 2. The students are assigned readings on the history of the site they excavate.

Classics major Robert Muller (‘20) commented on how the pre-departure learning has prepared him thus far.

“The textbook readings are not the enthralling part,” Muller said. “But they do serve as a motivator for the trip because, once we get there, those readings and images come to life. We’re figuring out the history with our own eyes instead of through another’s eyes.”

The Israel trip will begin in Caesarea, Israel. Centuries ago, this city was a way station for travelers to Rome, including the apostle Paul. The city was home to thousands of people and a metropolitan hub of international exchange.

Davis highlighted why the variety of cultural influences in Caesarea are a good fit for excavation work.

“We are planning to excavate right in the heart of the urban center,” Davis said. “It was and still is a different culture from the United States. We are exploring not just for the experience, but for the human-building aspects, too.”

Students will experience the culture of Israel in other locations including Jerusalem, the Western Wall,  the Dome of the Rock and the Sea of Galilee.

The Greece trip extends through the month of June. The students will live in Isthmia next to Kenchreai and Corinth. They will excavate in the city and take several excursions, including the cities of Epidaurus and Mycenae, a city made famous by Homer in the “Iliad.” The ruins in these cities are extensively preserved.

Anna Luber (‘20) emphasized why the preservation of both countries is beneficial beyond the excavation.

“I really wanted to go for the people,” Luber said. “The preservation of the culture is not only in the artifacts but in the people, too.”

The preservation of the cities offers students unique opportunities, such as walking around on mosaics 2000 years old. According to Davis, this experience helps students reconstruct history.

“It’s exhilarating to see history come alive,” Davis said. “I live that through their eyes and their excitement is my excitement.”

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