UW News

August 28, 2013

UW student archaeologists wind up summer at Tel Dor site

UW News

The UW Tel Dor Archeological Excavation and Field School — whose students in 2009 unearthed a rare gemstone with the image of Alexander the Great — has completed another summer’s excavation work.

And this year’s biggest find, in which UW student archaeologists played a support role as excavators and soil samplers at the site in Israel, was evidence of a 3,000-year-old spice trade between the Far East and the West.

A dozen UW students participated this summer — all women, as it happened — led as usual by Sarah Stroup, associate professor of classics, who created the field school program with colleagues at Hebrew University and the University of Haifa.

Stroup said perhaps the best thing about the annual six-week summer field school is that her students, most of whom have no archaeological training, become her fellow researchers — even her teachers.

She said her students do more than merely learn about the reality of modern archaeology, “they themselves contribute to it. Whether they find a rare gemstone, as in 2009, or help solve the complex stratigraphic relations of massive industrial buildings, as they did this summer, every year our students are not merely consuming knowledge, but are adding to it.” Stratigraphy, she explained, is the relation between strata, or layers of construction phases.

A “tel” is an archaeological mound built up over centuries of human occupation. Dor was an ancient port city on Israel’s Carmel Coast and a strategic hub of the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean area for thousands of years. The field school website explains, “Dor’s inhabitants have left behind a cross-section of 3,000 years of history, including Hellenistic catapult shots, Roman jewelry, a Crusader fort, and the cannons of Napoleon’s army.”

With excavation work during the days and evening lectures taught by international experts, Stroup said the program offers “the kind of intensive, focused and personalized learning that would be completely impossible in a campus setting.”