Wheaton magazine

Volume 19 // Issue 3
Wheaton magazine // Autumn 2016
News And Profiles
Faculty News

Wheaton Professor Helps Unearth First-Ever Philistine Cemetery

Biblical Archaeology at Wheaton

Students in the biblical archaeology major are trained to study the Bible within its long-term geographic, historical, cultural, and social dynamic.

DR. DANIEL MASTER, professor of archaeology and co-director of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, recently helped unearth the first cemetery ever found near a major Philistine city. Dr. Master has dedicated his work to the Ashkelon dig since 1992–a quarter of a century–and this past summer was the conclusion of the Ashkelon excavation. 

Dr. Master says that that this past summer provided him with a chance to come “face to face” with the ancient Philistine people. He says that the bones recovered from the excavation will not only give insight to burial practices of the people, but could also reveal diseases and injuries they suffered as well as other cultural aspects including marriage practices and gender roles. Dr. Master noted that our current knowledge of the Philistines comes from “people who didn’t like them,” and that this discovery will offer a vital perspective into this ancient culture. 

Scholars from around the world are now working to analyze findings ranging in complexity from pottery fragments to microbes found on plaque coating ancient teeth. The latter requires expert analysis from specialized laboratories around the globe. 

“We’re entering an era of amazing research in the field where Wheaton, in many ways, is at the forefront,” Dr. Master says. 

Though Wheaton will no longer be digging at Ashkelon, Dr. Master along with fellow faculty and students will begin excavating Tel Shimron next summer thanks to a recent gift from the Museum of the Bible. Tel Shimron has never been excavated, and is located on the Nazareth Ridge in Galilee next to the Jezreel Valley. Students surveyed the site last summer alongside Dr. Master and Associate Professor of Archaeology Dr. Adam Miglio M.A. '01, and a full-scale excavation is scheduled to begin during summer 2017. 

Dr. Master will work closely with local communities and universities during the Tel Shimron excavation. He urges fellow faculty and his students to make it a priority to “stand alongside local partners.” Despite cultural differences, Dr. Master believes that “at the end of the day, our common goal is what binds us together.” 

A look at a typical day on-site in Ashkelon: 

4:30 a.m.: Wake up 

5:00 a.m.: Begin excavation 

1:00 p.m.: Lunch, rest 

4:00 p.m.: Begin processing material 

6:15 p.m.: Lecture series with local faculty 

7:00 p.m.: Dinner, lights out