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A Hope Team’s Archaeology Excavation in Khirbet Safra

By June 28, 2023 July 7th, 2023 No Comments

Mr. Gerald Leads a Dig in Jordan

Hope’s Archaeology and Anthropology teacher Talmadge Gerald has been to Khirbet Safra, a hilltop excavation site overlooking the Dead Sea, three times as he pursues a PhD. This June, Mr. Gerald returned with two Hope teachers and two Hope students for the unbeatable opportunity to participate in a dig. Hear from Mr. Gerald below on what an excavation trip looks like and how it impacts us today:

“The first week of a dig is mainly preparing the site for full excavation so we can hit the ground running beginning week two. The site is about 20 km southwest of the city of Madaba (our home base while we’re not digging.) It is an ancient Iron Age I (1200-1100 BC) town from the time period of Joshua and Judges in the Bible. It is rare to have a site with a single occupational period, especially one from the Iron Age I which has been described as a “dark age” in academic circles in Israel and Jordan. Excavation of Khirbet Safra will help us better understand the time period and ancient people who lived in this area, who are most likely people from the ancient tribes of Reuben and Gad. Stories like the events of Judges chapters 3, 11, and 12 take place in and around this area in modern day Jordan.”

Throughout the dig, Mr. Gerald oversaw a portion of the site that included the gate complex, the only known entrance to the city. Other Hope participants worked alongside Mr. Gerald or at the acropolis. To beat the hot temperatures, the team would wake up in the early hours of the morning for breakfast before departing the hotel at 5am. They’d work until 9am before taking a second breakfast of food like watermelon and falafel sandwiches to re-energize them for the final few hours of their dig day. Once the excavation site was wrapped up, the team would return to the hotel to eat lunch in the early afternoon before washing and reading (a method used for figuring out the time period of each piece) the pottery uncovered that day. With the work day finished, they’d relax before dinner and an early bedtime.

After a packed two weeks at the dig site and a week of sight-seeing in the surrounding areas of Petra, Jerusalem, and Tiberias, the team returned to Chicago.

“It is special that Hope will forever be a part of this massive project that I am undertaking,” Mr. Gerald said as he reflected on the experience. “My work on the excavation site directly aligns with what I teach, so not only did I get to dig alongside of Hope teachers and students but I get to take it back to the rest of our wonderful students. Together, we’ll be able to see how ancient people lived to further illuminate our understanding of the Bible and better understand ourselves as human beings as students go to every corner of the world.”

You can find out more about Mr. Gerald’s work by visiting his YouTube channel.