When alumnus Greg Williams ’10 wanted to garner additional archaeological experience and further develop his skill set, he turned to a friend he discovered on the Gettysburg College campus, Prof. Jonathan David.
This past summer, Williams and David worked outside of Tel Megiddo, Israel, with an archaeological team that unearthed a 2nd Century Roman military camp. Their findings included historic artifacts such as pottery and amulets.
The team responsible for this significant find was part of the Jezreel Valley Regional Project (JVRP.) The JVRP spearheads excavations and surveys throughout the Jezreel Valley in Israel and their research covers a number of academic fields, such as anthropology, classics, archaeology, and religious studies.
Members of the JVRP employed a variety of surveying methods in this particular region of the Jezreel Valley for four years before discovering the military camp.
Efforts began with old-fashion surveying, which involved David, Williams, and the rest of the JVRP squad observing areas of potential interest. After narrowing down some promising dig sites, the archaeologists then used ground-penetrating radar, aerial photography, and laser imaging to gather information about the location of the Roman military camp resting right beneath their feet. After David and Williams established precise coordinates for the dig, the two-week excavation commenced.
“We really utilized electromagnetic resonance and ground radar in this dig,” David said. “We were able to pinpoint where we originally thought the camp was from our hypothesis. This allowed us to zero-in on the sites that had promising interest.”
David, an assistant professor in the College’s Classics Department, is co-founder of the JVRP and one of the organization’s four current program directors.
Not only does the JVRP allow graduate students to work side by side with enthusiastic professional and retired archaeologists, but undergraduates are offered this truly invaluable hands-on experience as well.
“One of our main goals is to train future archaeologists,” David said of the program. “Students are digging first and foremost, and they can get and stay as involved as they want. Their participation doesn’t just end when the program concludes in the summer.”
Williams, who double majored in history and anthropology, started collaborating with David immediately following his graduation in the spring of 2010. The Gettysburg duo first teamed up on the Megiddo Expedition in 2010 and went on to excavate for the JVRP in 2011 and 2012.
Upon graduation, Williams received his M.A. from American University in Cairo last fall. Today, he works as a freelance archaeologist primarily in southern Spain and Egypt with the German Archaeological Institute.
“If it were not for my work with Jon David and the JVRP, I would not have the field experience or contacts to become involved in any of the projects I am now working on,” said Williams, who also participates in a joint American-Palestinian excavation in Jericho and specializes in early Islamic material culture and architecture.
In the JVRP, participants like Williams are not only equipped with real-world skills; they also gain treasured memories of travel and diverse professional relationships.
“I’ve been able to work in a variety of places with different people, and work in varying kinds of archaeology,” Williams said. “This is not an opportunity that should be taken for granted.”
Plus, he’s gained a lifelong mentor in his field.
“I learned a great deal from Jon and he encouraged me to take on leadership roles and learn new skills,” Williams said.
“I always get a great kick out of seeing our students transition from introductory students to workers who can do something professionally,” David said. “It’s a great experience from my point of view as an academic to see my students change and mature into new professionals.”