EDMOND — About 20 students from a private Christian college will participate in a Jerusalem archaeological excavation in which they hope to find artifacts that bring history and the Bible together.
Students from the Herbert W. Armstrong College are set to leave Sunday for what many of them consider a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in an excavation in an area that archaeologists believe was a royal complex built by King Solomon more than 3,000 years ago.
“Just getting your hands on history and digging where kings lived is exciting,” said student Monica Antonio, 21.
Student Tyrel Schlote, 21, shared similar sentiments. “Definitely the prospect of finding something amazing is there. The potential to find something exceptional is extremely high.”
Antonio, Schlote and two other students majoring in theology said they have been preparing for the archaeological dig with months of classroom work. Student Callum Wood, 21, said they learned excavation terminology plus information about the site where they would be digging and how to dig.
Shane Granger, marketing director of the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation, said the students will be in Israel for five months and receive semester credit for their work.
Granger said the students will be working with archaeologist Eilat Mazar, Ph.D., of Jerusalem's Hebrew University at a site where Mazar hopes to uncover portions of the 10th century B.C. palace area known as the Ophel. Granger said the excavation area will be “a stone's throw from the Temple Mount.”
“Dr. Mazar is really excited about this particular dig because it is unexplored territory,” he said.
Granger said the students' participation in the excavation project is part of a partnership forged in 1968 between the college's founder, Herbert W. Armstrong, and Mazar's grandfather, prominent Israeli historian and archaeologist Benjamin Mazar. Granger said Benjamin Mazar offered to let students from Armstrong's small liberal arts college participate in the excavations he was beginning in Jerusalem.
Granger said the partnership lasted until both men died (Armstrong in 1986; Mazar in 1995), but college officials asked to revive the collaboration in 2006 after learning that Benjamin Mazar's granddaughter had continued in his archaeological excavation footsteps.
Armstrong College, affiliated with the Philadelphia Church of God, opened its 171-acre campus at 14400 S Bryant Ave. in 2002.
Granger said Brent Nagtegaal, an Armstrong graduate and instructor of archaeology, participated in four excavations with Eilat Mazar and has returned to Jerusalem to be part of the dig with Armstrong students.
Granger said three dozen artifacts from previous excavations with Eilat Mazar are on display at the Armstrong Auditorium on the college campus. He said the “Seals of Jeremiah's Captors Discovered” exhibit was created through a partnership between the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation and the Israeli Antiquities Authority. It is free and open to the public through Jan. 16.
Travel is encouraged
Meanwhile, Antonio, who is from the Philippines, said she has been dreaming of experiencing an archaeological dig since she was 15.
“I'm looking forward to finding further proof of the Bible and being in Jerusalem for five months,” she said.
Wood, an Australian, Schlote, who is from Canada, and student Bailey Crawford, 24, of Paris, Texas, said they have never been to Israel and are looking forward to experiencing cultural activities there.
“I've never traveled internationally so it will be an experience of a lifetime, a chance to broaden my horizons,” Crawford said.
Granger said the students are encouraged to travel as much as possible.
“It is part of their education,” he said.