The Virtual World Project: Touring The Ancient World

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Figure 1. The entry page of the Virtual World Project website.

By: Ronald A. Simkins and Nicolae Roddy, Creighton University

There is nothing quite like teaching at an archaeological site, where ancient remains almost speak out to students as witnesses of the past. Both authors have led study tours in Israel, taking students to archaeological sites like Tel Dan, Bethsaida, Megiddo, Arad, Beer-sheba, and others, lecturing there among the stones on archaeology, history, and the Bible. As we would walk through the architectural remains, our students would experience the ancient world first hand; issues of daily life, social structure, urbanism, ecology, and industry were given a material context that the students readily grasped. Because students learn in multiple ways—there are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners—teaching on site is able to maximize the students’ learning through these multiple ways.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to replicate this experience back home in the traditional university classroom. Archaeological materials are readily available for course use but much of it is difficult and not-easily accessible for undergraduate students. Archaeological field reports are often too technical and contain too much data for students. Synthetic and popular studies offer greater accessibility, but the spatial context of the ancient archaeological site remains elusive. Photographs and slides may give a good representation of the features of a site, but for the student who has no personal experience, putting the images together into a single, holistic context is nearly impossible. The images remain at best fragmented, two-dimensional representations that lack the orientation, scale, and spatial context that one gains from first-hand experience. The Virtual World Project was created to overcome these shortcomings by bridging the gap between the traditional classroom and the immediate experience one gains from touring an archaeological site. Continue reading

A Seminar on The History and Material Culture of Ottoman Palestine at the Kenyon Institute, Jerusalem

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Fig 1: The seminar poster (graphics by Qais Tweissi)

By: Micaela Sinibaldi

On the 9th and 10th of February 2013 I had the great pleasure to organise a seminar entitled: The History and Material Culture of Ottoman Palestine at the Kenyon Institute in Jerusalem. The seminar consisted of a day of papers and a roundtable discussion at the Kenyon and a day of tours of the Old City led by some of the seminar scholars.

As an archaeologist who works on the Islamic period, I know from my fieldwork and research, which has been especially focused on Petra (Jordan), that it is particularly the later periods which are still largely unexplored by archaeology, particularly the Ottoman period. During my recent work for Brown University, for example, as a co-director of excavations at Islamic Bayda (Petra region), a village whose occupation spans the whole Islamic period, it appeared from my preliminary research that the latest and most extensive phase is Ottoman; however, almost no material is currently available in the region for providing the excavation results with some archaeological parallels. One of the reasons for a very recent interest in the archaeology of the Ottoman period is that, partly because of the wealth of both documentary and monumental architectural sources available, the study of material culture has naturally focused on buildings such as the impressive ones preserved in Jerusalem in the al-Haram al-Sharif and in other areas of the Old City of Jerusalem, rather than on rural sites or on the use of archaeology to help solve chronological questions. Continue reading

Nomad Archaeology in the Near East

Cheng_JiafenBy: Jiafen Cheng, Jilin University, China, Noble Group Fellow

 My project involved using Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis with ethno-archaeological materials in researching the nomads in the Negev region in Israel with the aim of explaining the patterns of ancient pastoral and nomadic settlement in late antiquity. I chose two small areas in this region - Makhtesh Ramon and Har Karkom – as a case study.

With the introduction of the Negev Emergency Survey, a series of systematic field surveys of the entire Negev had been undertaken since 1978. Continue reading