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This story is part of our news archives, prior to July 2010.

omrit dig ancient news - omrit finding

Kate Petersen, Kevin Deno, Professor Nanette Goldman and Morgan Carlston pose with a rare stucco piece from the earliest Omrit Temple, now on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
An extremely rare frescoed pedestal in-situ, just after being discovered.
A view of the earliest Temple, fully excavated and encased within the later Temple I.
An intact stuccoed pedestal which is the north face of the earliest Temple at Omrit. An intact stuccoed pedestal which is the north face of the earliest Temple at Omrit.
The pedestal being preserved by our conservator.

It sounds like the stuff of a Hollywood movie - going on an archeological dig in Israel and uncovering a major find (followed by some serious mayhem). But that's what happened during Macalester's archeological dig in Israel this summer (minus the mayhem). If the findings prove to be correct, Macalester students may have uncovered that Omrit is in fact biblical Caesarea Phillippi, where the Apostle Peter made his famous confession to Jesus.

What was found doesn't sound like much: very rare pieces of architecture, painted walls and molded elements. But the finds helped confirm the theory that Herod the Great, King of the region from 37 BCE - 4 BCE, most likely built the two earliest phases of the Roman imperial temple complex at Omrit.

Omrit was a crucial commercial and imperial site which sat on the busiest trade route in the Roman East, the road from Tyre to Damascus. Romans used this road to keep the Parthians/Persians out of Galilee and Judea, and they used it to prepare for their attack on Jerusalem in 66 CE.

Omrit has become such a significant site that its finds will be housed in two museums - the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and in Tel Hai College in Kyriat Shmona. Macalester College has been working with the local authorities to develop Omrit into a cultural and archaeological park.

Today Omrit sits on the Israeli-Lebanese-Syrian borders and along with a rich ancient history has watched contemporary events and conflicts unfold over the last 60 years that are not unlike those events and conflicts which accounted for the establishment of Omrit over two thousand years ago.

The Macalester College archaeological excavations at Khirbet Omrit began ten years ago and are directed by Professor Andy Overman and run by the Classics Department. Students from across the college have participated in the summer excavations. During the day students excavate the Roman period temple site and at night study the contemporary issues and conflicts in Israel and Palestine.

Macalester Excavations will continue at Omrit for the 2010 season. As always any Macalester student may participate.