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Holy Land archaeology on hold during pandemic

Hanan Isachar / GODONG

John Burger - published on 09/13/20

American archaeologists are not able to travel at this time.

Secrets that have lain hidden in the ground for centuries might have to wait a bit longer to be uncovered, as the coronavirus pandemic is putting many archaeological digs in the Holy Land on hold.

American archaeologists are a prominent group doing work in the Holy Land, but travel restrictions and other factors are impeding their work, Christianity Today reported. 

Dale Manor, an archaeology and Bible professor emeritus from Harding University in Arkansas, for example, intended to spend this year unearthing a Canaanite shrine located some 20 miles outside Jerusalem, CT said. But the pandemic changed everything.

“For biblical archaeologists, 2020 will be remembered as the summer without digs,” said the newspaper. “Most projects were stopped as the coronavirus spread and international travel was suspended.”

Putting an archaeological excavation on hold does not come without costs, as “there is an increased risk of site deterioration, both from the elements and plundering,” Manor warned.

Other places where the digging has stopped include:

  • Bethsaida, on the northern side of the Sea of Galilee, home of three of Christ’s disciples, Philip, Peter and Andrew, and the scene of Jesus’ healing of a blind man. Archaeologists made some discoveries in 2019 that led them to think el-Araj could be the historic city, challenging the claim of nearby el-Tell. Steven Notley, academic director of the project and professor of New Testament at Nyack College in New York, believes some ornate mosaic floors found last year demonstrate that el-Araj was Bethsaida, CT said.
  • Tel Shiloh, an ancient biblical city which had been the central worship center in Israel until the first temple mount was built. Scott Stipling from The Bible Seminary in Texas oversaw the operation. He said that “in three seasons of excavation, we have uncovered significant evidence of the ancient sacrificial system at Shiloh.”
  • The Tel Dan excavation in northern Israel. Jonathan Greer, professor of Old Testament at Cornerstone University in Michigan and associate director of this excavation, said he is interested in “learning more about the worship of Yahweh in the Northern Kingdom as it compares and contrasts with Judah and the way this relates to biblical priestly texts.”
  • Tel Hadid, near Ben-Gurion airport, which has “significant potential to be a key site to fill in some needed information about the expansion of Israel into the Coastal Plain and lowlands,” said New Orleans Baptist Seminary professor Daniel Warner, co-director. This is where the largest screw-type wine press in Israel was found.

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