Archeological Digs

Archeological Dig Expedition at VDS

Current Digs

Under the direction of  Joseph Rife , director and associate professor of classical and Mediterranean studies, and  Phillip Lieberman , associate professor of Jewish Studies and Classical and Mediterranean Studies, an international team of Vanderbilt students, staff, faculty and archaeological specialists have been excavating a 900-square-meter section of the ancient and medieval port city of Caesarea. They work at the site, which is a national park, in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority. While no religious items have yet been found at the site to indicate the faith of the residents, Rife said that the objects they have found reflect the lifestyle of wealthy Muslim merchants of the period. For more information on this program, see here.


Vanderbilt Divinity School's involvement with archaeological excavation has excelled under the leadership of Douglas Knight, now-retired Moore Buffington Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies. Knight participated in many archeological digs himself and was been the chief organizer of the program for the Divinity School, which is now a member of the international consortia supporting the Megiddo and Jezreel excavations.

Because of the generous support of an anonymous donor, each year 5 to 10 students were able travel to Israel to participate in digs at Jezreel or Megiddo. In addition to the experience of the dig, students received instruction and attended lectures throughout their time on the site. Most students also took one or two of the courses offered by the excavations, which they could then transfer graduate credit back to Vanderbilt from the University of Tel Aviv (for Megiddo) or the University of Haifa (for Jezreel). Income from the proposed endowment supplemented travel, room and board, and tuition.

If you are interested in pursuing these opportunities, contact Professor Marbury at

Photo Credit: Noga Blockman

The Megiddo Expedition

The Megiddo Expedition is undertaken under the auspices of Tel Aviv University, in conjunction with The George Washington University as Senior Consortium Member and Chapman UniversityGettysburg College, Loyola Marymount UniversityVanderbilt UniversityUniversity of Oklahoma and Jezreel Valley Regional Project (JVRP) as Consortium Members. The Expedition is directed by Israel Finkelstein (Tel Aviv University) and Eric Cline (The George Washington University). Megiddo is the jewel in the crown of biblical archaeology. Strategically perched above the most important land route in the ancient Near East, the city dominated international traffic for over 6,000 years - from ca. 7,000 B.C.E. through to biblical times. As civilizations came and went, succeeding settlements at ancient Megiddo were built on the ruins of their predecessors, creating a multi-layered archaeological legacy that abounds in unparalleled treasures that include monumental temples, lavish palaces, mighty fortifications, and remarkably engineered water systems. 

The Jezreel Expedition

The Jezreel Expedition is sponsored by the University of Evansville and the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa; with consortium members the University of Arizona, Chapman University, Vanderbilt University and Villanova University. "Jezreel, the site famously connected in the Bible with the evil King Ahab and his scheming wife, Jezebel, has lain unattended by archaeologists for many years," said Douglas Knight, the Drucilla Moore Buffington Professor of Hebrew Bible and professor of Jewish Studies in the College of Arts and Science. "The area in which the excavators worked played important political and economic roles in biblical times and is located in one of the most picturesque and strategic valley regions of Israel." Knight and six students from Vanderbilt Divinity School and the Graduate Department of Religion worked with an archaeological team that reopened the site in summer 2013 to discover more about the history and culture of ancient Israel.

VDS Voices blog post, The Jezreel Experience by Rhonda Siggers, MDiv'15