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location map

Map courtesy of Kyle Olive.

Aerial view of temple complex looking south

2007 Season Excavators

Omrit is an interdisciplinary learning experience and anyone is eligible to participate in the excavation without previous experience in archaeology. This season's archaeological goals include excavating inside the temple, especially the temple cella, and continuing the preservation and reconstruction of both phases of the temple. The 2010 season will run from late May to late June. The cost of the program for Macalester students is approximately $3000 (payable in two installments) and a deposit of $1500 is due by February 15, 2010. To learn more about joining this year's dig at Omrit click here.              

Archaeological excavations conducted by Macalester College began at Omrit, northern Israel, in May of 1999. Omrit is located at the northern extent of the Hulah valley in Israel, where the Golan Heights and the Upper Galilee meet the Lebanese and Syrian borders. Ancient Omrit rests upon a bluff overlooking the Hulah valley and is on the ancient Roman road to Damascus.

A fire in this region in August of 1998 exposed this previously unexplored archaeological site. Architectural features were clearly visible on the tel during a survey. Further surveys by Mordechai Aviam of the Israel Antiquities Authority confirmed that Omrit is likely to be a site of great historical importance. The Israel Antiquities Authority then granted Macalester College , of St. Paul, Minnesota, an exclusive license to the site. Excavations began in 1999 under the direction of J. Andrew Overman, Professor of Classics at Macalester College and Jack Olive, Adjunct Professor at Macalester, as field director.

During the first season, excavators exposed two meters of a limestone podium to a Roman Temple. There is enough of the temple "in-situ" and enough architectural fragments exposed to reconstruct some of the original building. It was probably 15-20 meters high with columns 8-10 meters in size. About 100 meters to the north of the temple, excavators began to investigate a Byzantine olive oil factory, colonnaded road, and bath complex which were constructed after the collapse of the temple. Archaeological excavations at Omrit have been ongoing since the first season in 1999 and are scheduled to continue for at least 5 more years. The focus of these excavations will shift toward creating a conservation program for the site.

The temple complex at Omrit dates from somewhere between the reign of Herod the Great (c.20 BCE) and the Emperor Hadrian (c. 130 CE). The 2000 season uncovered a second podium, which indicates that the temple was expanded at some point and thus makes dating the temple more difficult. The Macalester team will further define the date of the building in ensuing seasons. A first or early second century Roman temple is a rare find, particularly in Israel. At Omrit we have one of the few examples of Roman imperial presence and rule in Israel, untouched, and virtually intact. Omrit stands to shed tremendous light on the political and cultural setting of northern Israel in the first two centuries of the common era, as well as the Byzantine period. 

Anyone interested should talk to Professor Andrew Overman (651-696-6375).


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