Spigel and students uncover more mosaic images in Israel

From June 1 to June 29, Chad Spigel, associate professor of religion, traveled to the Lower Galilee region of Israel to take part in an archaeological excavation with archaeologists and students from around the world. Two Trinity students, senior Sara Brashears and sophomore Daniel House, accompanied Spigel.

Spigel has participated in the excavation since 2011. In the past, the team discovered several mosaic tile images. This year, even more mosaic images were found, raising questions about what they depict.

“We thought we understood what a mosaic meant last year, but finding a similar one this year raised more questions for our group,” Spigel said. “Archaeology can either strengthen a hypothesis or be what causes it to change.”

The trip gave students hands-on experience in archaeology.

“Science classes have labs that go with them. Similarly, this trip is like a lab for religion or classical studies,” Spigel said. “Students learn how to dig, look for and preserve artifacts and really understand all aspects of archaeology.”

While the trip focused on excavations at different sites, most of the digging was concentrated in a synagogue and a Byzantine-era village.

“I was working on a Jewish village from the fifth or sixth century,” House said. “Every morning we would get up at four and work from five to noon. We found some really cool pottery””porcelain from the British Mandate period, yellow and green glass from the Islamic period and some pottery vessels, probably used for cooking, indicating we were in a kitchen or dining room in a residential area from the Byzantine period.”

Spigel, Brashears and House agree that working with people of other nationalities allowed them to see archaeology from different perspectives.

“There were people from Slovakia, Canada, the Netherlands and Israel, as well as from the United States,” House said. “It was really interesting to see how all these different people approached archaeology and how different cultures have different techniques.”

The presence of other archaeologists on site helped House and others better understand things they observed.

“Many of the historical sites we visited had been excavated by the archaeologists in our group, so we got some inside information that we may not have learned without the knowledge and experience of those people,” House said.

While in Israel, the team also took time on the weekends to travel around the country.

“We got to travel around to different historical sites,” Brashears said. “We went shopping and even to some concerts.”

Students do not have to major in archaeology or classical studies to go on the trip. Students from various academic disciplines have participated in the excavation before.

“I would encourage anyone to go on this trip, even if you’re not aspiring to be an archaeologist,” Brashears said. “It can open you up to thinking about something you don’t really understand and give you a new way of looking at it. If you have a chance, you should go for it.”