University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire


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Geography Professor to Appear
In Upcoming NOVA Program

 MAILED:  Nov. 23, 2004

EAU CLAIRE — A film that follows a group of scientists and biblical scholars — including a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire geography professor and one of his students — will be broadcast on an upcoming edition of the PBS science television series NOVA.

"Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land " will premier locally at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30, on Wisconsin Public Television. The original broadcast will be seen one week earlier, Nov. 23, in Milwaukee and other parts of the country.

In this program NOVA explores a remote cave in the Judean desert, the Cave of Letters , with the Jewish historian Richard Freund of the University of Hartford, who believed earlier explorations of the cave were incomplete because of the thick layer of debris five to 15 feet deep on the cave floor.

Freund's expedition was equipped with state-of-the-art technology including ground penetrating radar operated by Harry Jol, associate professor of geography, and Christopher Morton, a computer science major who graduated from UW-Eau Claire in 2001.

Jol said GPR has been used in archaeology before but rarely in a cave. GPR sends a signal into the rocks, which comes back to a computer that generates an image of the subsurface, allowing researchers to see potential spaces between rocks where artifacts would most likely be found. Then an endoscope was used to locate and take pictures of artifacts.

"I was involved in the collection of the GPR data that led to several of the discoveries," Jol said. "Chris Morton was involved in many aspects of the cave excavation as well as recording the finds."

According to the program description on the NOVA Web site, Freund's results have sharpened the picture of life and death in the cave complex, which cuts more than 300 yards deep into a virtually inaccessible cliff west of the Dead Sea.

"Freund hypothesizes that the cave was used multiple times as a refuge and hiding place," the description says. "More controversially, his theory suggests that Jews of the era assimilated decorative aspects of Roman mythology to the point of including mythological figures on their holiest objects. Freund makes a convincing case involving carbon-14 dating, comparison with other artifacts, and the fact that pagan motifs are featured on the Temple's great menorah."

University and community members are invited to watch the NOVA program with Jol on the big screen in Phillips Hall 007 at 7 p.m. Nov. 30. He will be available for questions after the show.

A Web site that is housed at UW-Eau Claire was developed by Morton and includes information about the cave excavation. Information about the program and NOVA's TV schedule is available online.



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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
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Updated: November 23, 2004