University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

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UW-Eau Claire Faculty Member and Student
Help Locate Archaeological Sites in Israel

 MAILED:  August 5, 2003

EAU CLAIRE -A University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire faculty member and one of his undergraduate students were part of an international archaeological research team that recently initiated geophysical investigations at Tel Yavne, Israel.

Dr. Harry Jol, associate professor of geography, and sophomore geography major Bryan Frenz, Tomah, were on site in Israel July 16-22. They used the nondestructive, non-invasive techniques of ground penetrating radar to aid in directing future locations for digging on the historically significant site.

Tel Yavne, site of an ancient city that lies southeast of the modern city of Yavne, has a long history of occupation. Prior surface surveys and small-scale excavations have revealed remains from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. The current geophysical investigations are aimed at determining whether it would be feasible to conduct a large-scale excavation at the site. The primary goal is to find remains that date to the Roman period, when the Jewish "Supreme Court," the Sanhedrin, was located in Yavne, and the city was the political and religious center of the Jewish world.

The team of researchers, including Jol, pronounced the project "a resounding success," as they found evidence of a number of promising areas for excavation.

Jol said he finds it "very fulfilling" to do this preliminary work using non-invasive techniques.

"Our results at this historically significant location will direct the archaeologists to the most probable sites for excavation," said Jol. "I look forward to more sites worldwide adopting this strategy of site investigation."

The project is one of a number of investigations organized by the Foundation Stone, a Jewish educational organization "established to create a foundation for and bridge between the worlds of archaeology and Torah." Adviser for the Foundation Stone investigation at Tel Yavne is renowned archaeologist Avner Goren, who accompanied author Bruce Feiler while he was researching his New York Bestseller, "Walking the Bible."

Frenz said all the "amazing" people he worked with and what he learned from them made the adventure worthwhile and educational. The trip also made him, as a geography major, want to shift his focus to experimenting more with geophysics and understanding more about physical geography features.

"Their knowledge and expertise taught me more than I ever would have expected to learn on a 12-day trip," Frenz said. "I cannot say enough good things about the people I worked with. Harry Jol, Paul Bauman, Phil Reeder and Dan Parker all educated me on equipment and geophysics, far beyond my original aspirations - Dr. Richard Freund selected me, along with Harry, for the assistant position and archaeologist Avner Goren and the people at Foundation Stone were wonderfully helpful and kind."

Further information on the investigation, including a day-by-day photo journal from the site with examples of the GPR data provided by Jol and Frenz, can be found at the Foundation Stone website.

Corporate sponsors of the dig included Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Mul-T-Lock. The University of Hartford (Freund), Komex International (Bauman and Parker) and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at UW-Eau Claire also helped make the project possible.

Jol can be contacted at jolhm@uwec.edu, or work phone, (715) 836-3472; home phone, (715) 834-1250.

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Updated: August 8, 2003