University of South Carolina

What I Did This Summer: Field excavation in Israel


"What I Did This Summer" follows a number of University of South Carolina students as they work, travel, and explore the world during the summer. Many of them blogged about their adventures. This is the fourteenth story in the Summer 2010 series.

Some exciting finds were made during the two summers Jacob Damm worked at an archaeological site in Israel.

"The oldest example of Hebrew writing found to date was discovered there last summer," said Damm, a fourth-year student with a double major in religious studies and classical studies.

"The site is called the Khirbet Qeiyafa, and it's just southwest of Jerusalem," he said.

"It was a fortified city on the border with the Philistine territory and a large wall made out of massive stones surrounded it. It was in use at a time when theories say that the Israelites didn't have fortifications like this. There's lots of controversy surrounding the site for this reason, and that makes any work there very, very exciting.

"This summer, the square of land I was excavating had been used as a dumping ground in the Hellenistic period, but two other squares next to me were great," he said. "One was used for cultic practice and had a beautiful altar and ceramic vessels used for pouring libations in cultic practice.

Jacob Damm received a Magellan Scholar grant from the University to conduct his summer 2010 research.

"Another square was the residence of a wealthy person, where we found beautiful weaponry and beautiful jewelry including gold beads," he said. "It also included a small ceramic shrine that was 100 percent intact -- not even a chip. It was a very important find season."

This summer, since he was an experienced member of the team, he helped train one of the newer volunteers at the site.

"I also was in charge of collection and fieldwork for micro-faunul remains analysis," he said. "We took a large dirt sample from a floor level, placed it in a mesh screen, and ran water over it to remove the dirt and dust particles. We then went through the material to look for beads, small animal bones, and small pieces of jewelry."

Damm's work was the field arm of a study being conducted by a Tel Aviv University faculty member.

"We sent him the final product of what was found and he is using that in a paper about how to determine sediment indicators using animal bones."

Damm knew early in his education that he wanted to study history and the ancient world.

"My dream job is to be a college professor during the academic year and a field archaeologist in the summer," he said.

"To be competitive in the field, I'll have to get a Ph.D. Since there is no such thing as a fulltime archaeologist who goes in the field all the time, I will teach courses in archaeology, ancient history, and religious studies. I'm in my third year of ancient Greek, have had one year of intensive study of Hebrew, and am in my second year of German, so I may teach languages, too."

By Web Communications

Posted: 11/24/10 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 12/16/10 @ 12:50 PM | Permalink