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BYU Students Help Make Archaeological Discoveries

The Tel Shimron Excavation

The Tel Shimron Excavation seeks to understand the ancient world, including the world of the Bible, through the rigorous archaeological investigation, in order to provide resources for the study of Levantine history and culture over the last five thousand years. Shimron is mentioned in the conquest narratives (Joshua 19:15) and was known as Simonais in the New Testament period. As a neighboring village to Nazareth, the site would have been known by Jesus as He grew up. Fieldwork is currently focused on areas with Middle Bronze Age (Canaanite), Iron Age (Israelite), and Second Temple Period (1st century AD) architectural remains. Student volunteers have the opportunity to excavate in the field, process and analyze artifacts, practice database and mapping skills, and tour sites in Israel related to both Old and New Testament events. BYU is a member of the academic consortium that consists of Wheaton College, Tel Aviv University, Boston College, and Cairn University. Dr. George Pierce heads up the Geographic Information Systems and LiDAR teams to digitally record the digs and run spatial analyses, and Dr. Krystal Pierce serves as the registrar and works to catalogue, conserve, research, and archive each artifact found in the course of excavations. While archaeological work at Tel Shimron is intellectually challenging, the location of Shimron in the Jezreel Valley near Nazareth affords the opportunity to reflect on the experiences and teachings of the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha and the life and ministry of Christ while being embedded in the landscape in which they lived and preached.

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Students listening to a surveying expert at the Tel Shimron Excavation
A student examining pottery shards at the Tel Shimron Excavation

The BYU Egypt Excavation Project

There are two main parts of the BYU Egypt Excavation Project. The older remains are from the excavation of the Seila Pyramid. Our discovery of a stela with two of the names of Snefru, first king of the Fourth Dynasty, revealed who had built the pyramid. It lies 10 km due west of the Meidum Pyramid, and in terms of its elevation and the ratio of its construction, there are some clear links between the two pyramids. The Seila Pyramid has evidence for ritual activity on both the north and the eastern sides. It has a causeway on the eastern side, but no valley temple. It represents an important witness of Snefru’s innovations in regards to pyramid complexes, and play an important role in the development of pyramids. Besides the stelae, other important artifacts include an altar, the remains of a small statue, a foundation deposit jar, a model oar, and the remains of several limestone tables or altars.

We have taken students to Egypt in the past, though the current situation does not allow us to do that. We do work with students here on campus. We have textile samples here that we train students to analyze and conserve. We also work with students on creating an archaeological database. We also work with students to analyze old fieldbooks and do research with that material.

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Two students working on the BYU Egypt Excavation Project in a lab
A student examining a tunnel at the BYU Egypt Excavation Project