Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mt. Zion excavation could someday lead to archaeological park

John Bland, Phillip Brown and James Hathaway contributed to this story.

[Photos by Rachel Ward]

It's July 2015, and archaeologist Shimon Gibson, an associate professor at UNC Charlotte, has an exciting vision for the Mount Zion excavation site near Jerusalem. The dig is a multi-year effort in the ancient city, and UNC Charlotte is the only American university licensed to carry out such excavations in Jerusalem.

Shimon Gibson instructs excavation teammates and observers.
Work at the Mount Zion site will continue for several years, toward a goal of developing an interactive attraction for the three million yearly visitors to Jerusalem. “We would like to bring about a situation whereby tourists and pilgrims in the future will be able to walk through this time tunnel and see these remains dating from different periods,” Gibson said.

The site is located near the Zion Gate and under the Old City Wall. The dig has an annual staff of about 80, working in two two-week shifts during the summers. Most years, 15 to 20 UNC Charlotte students participate as volunteers, though the project has become so popular in recent years that it is now drawing staff from around the country and around the world. He s

Within a stone’s throw of the dig is the Tomb of David, hero of the bible and the city’s great king, and above it the room where Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Last Supper, before the passion and crucifixion. Also close are the ruins of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian’s great Nea church

James Tabor, best-selling author and noted religious historian
has worked for years on projects in Jerusalem.
“Archaeology is the material remains of the human past. And this particular period, of all the periods in Western history, is that intersection of ancient Judaism and the birth of Christianity. We’re at ground zero,” said James Tabor, professor of religious studies and co-director of the dig with Gibson, who will teach a course on the history of Jerusalem this fall at the University.

The excavation work takes place during the summer, and the artifacts unearthed are studied and cataloged during the rest of the year at the University of the Holy Land. UNC Charlotte students and volunteers from Charlotte, Europe and the Middle East help with the dig.

View Mt. Zion video on YouTube and The Live Wire.

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