Summer Snapshots: Badgers Go Digging

July 2nd 2012
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[caption id="attachment_9488" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="As part of their trip, the UW-Madison students recently visited Masada. (Photo courtesy Joseph O'Donnell)"][/caption]

Most of the students in the College of Letters & Science may be away, but that doesn't mean the action has stopped on campus. Our faculty and staff are still living out the Wisconsin Idea, both in Madison and all over the world. This is our Summer Snapshots series.

Israel’s Negev desert may not qualify as a popular summer destination for most college students.

But that’s precisely where five UW-Madison students and one recent graduate are spending five weeks as part of an archaeological dig at Khirbet Summeily this summer. You can follow their blog on the Center for Jewish Studies' website.

The students are working under the direction of Jeff Blakely, an adjunct professor in the Department of Hebrew & Semitic Studies who is also the co-director of the excavation.

The trip is funded by the Center for Jewish Studies’ Coleman Undergraduate Learning Enhancement Fund, the purpose of which is to provide extraordinary experiences outside of the classroom for undergraduate students.

The fund was established in 2004 thanks to the generosity of donors Bill and Marjorie Coleman, but generally has been used for shorter trips, said Laurie Silverberg, the Associate Director of the Center for Jewish Studies.

“This is probably the biggest thing we’ve done,” she said.

Without the fund, which is covering all costs apart from airfare and an optional course credit, junior Eric Carlucci said he wouldn’t have been able to participate in the dig.

“I have never been on a dig before, so this will be my first true introduction to the work I will hopefully be doing as a career,” said Carlucci, an anthropology major.

All six students – Carlucci, Sophie Carman (who graduated in May), Joseph O’Donnell, Geoffrey Ludvik, Alexander McQuillan and Donald Farrow – took Blakely’s Introduction to Biblical Archaeology course last fall. Blakely said they were all outstanding students and committed in their interest in the dig.

Interestingly, the dig attracted students from a diverse set of majors. Only O’Donnell is pursuing a Jewish Studies certificate, and he’s majoring in Hebrew and Classics.

“It actually is nice to see that there’s such a variety of students going to participate in the dig, that’s it’s not just limited to Jewish Studies majors,” Silverberg said.

Silverberg was particularly excited that the group will be staying at Kibbutz Ruhama – a kibbutz is an agricultural-based communal settlement – which will allow the students to be fully immersed in the Israeli culture. Ruhama is less than four miles from the dig site of Khirbet Summeily, a small village site located on the ancient Judah-Philistine border. The site, which was first excavated last summer, may hold clues about daily life in the border region from the late 11th century BC through the late eighth century BC.

Apart from Carman, who arrived early to study pottery analysis under Blakely, the students landed in Israel on June 17 and will stay until July 20. In addition to blogging, they'll be posting pictures on Flickr and shooting video with a flip cam along the way.