Troy University students return to ancient city for dig

Published 11:00 pm Friday, May 31, 2013

Written by Trent Thompkins, intern with The Messenger

Troy University has partnered with the likes of esteemed schools such as Harvard, Wheaton, and Boston Colleges to aid students on their trip overseas on an expedition to unearth the ancient city of Ashkelon, located in the heart of Israel.


Heading to the dig are Joel Jackson, a senior anthropology major from Millbrook; Steven Sharpe, a junior anthropology major from Troy; Ben Conner, a senior anthropology major from Prattville; Hanna Raughton, a junior criminal justice and geomatics major from Fort Payne and Kassandra Williams, a senior anthropology major from Ozark.

Ashkelon, one of the five major port cities for the Philistines, was mentioned often in the Christian Bible. Ancient Ashkelon was once a thriving city until it was destroyed in 1270 and rebuilt hundreds of years later in 1953.

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Dr. Bill Grantham of Troy University has been heading the expedition for the past five years.

“I’ve worked on this excavation since I was an undergrad,” Grantham said of his time spent many years ago at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. “It’s an ongoing excavation.”

He said that there will always be something to discover from the remnants of this old city once occupied by the Philistines. In the past, Grantham and his team have unburied old living quarters, public dining areas, city halls, and many more things dating back to the Neolithic Era.

“It’s some things you can’t teach in the classroom,” said Troy University graduate student, Joel Jackson. “Hands on experience is key.”

This is Jackson’s third time venturing overseas to the old world, and he enjoys the full benefits of what the trip has to offer every year.

“The things that we find can tell a big story,” Jackson said about imagining how each item found could have possibly been used in its lifetime.

Jackson and fellow students from the United States aren’t the only ones soaking in the worldliness of it all. Students from Korea, China, and other parts of the world take part in the dig as well.

“It’s way more than an educational experience for our students, and vice versa,” Grantham said.

Students can choose to participate in the excavation, as well as earn college credit hours through Harvard College.

Students attend lectures, dig in the fields, and get a chance to work with professional archaeologists. Jackson recalls that in his last visit, during downtime, students could roam about and sightsee other areas of Israel.

The students are gearing up for departure to Israel on June 9 and will be returning to the states on July 20.