Harvard partnership sends two TROY students to Israel

Posted: Tuesday, 25 May 2010

TROY—A partnership between Troy University and Harvard University Field School in Archaeology will send two TROY students to Israel this summer.

Hilary Wikle, a senior social sciences major from Ozark, and Jonathan Lowrey, a senior social sciences major concentrating in anthropology from Troy, will join other student and academic archeologists in the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, Israel for the summer. Troy University will pay the program fee for Wikle and Lowrey to participate in the program.

This year’s trip will be the second such for Wikle, who delayed her graduation until later in the summer so she could participate on the expedition’s staff.

“It’s worth putting off graduation,” she said. “It’s an amazing learning experience and we’ll be working along side a ‘who’s who’ of Biblical archeology.”

The two students will focus on the ancient seaport city that once served as a capital of Canaanite kings, the harbor of the Philistines and the area inhabited by Samson. Located 35 miles south of Tel Aviv and close to the war-torn Gaza Strip, the Ashkelon has been the site of an annual excavation where professional archeologists have joined with students and volunteers.

“It’s an honor Harvard accepted me into its summer school program,” Lowrey said. “I’m still a TROY student and I hope to show them that we have students at TROY who have top skills.

For Lowrey, whose area of study is bone archeology, the summer is about gaining professional job experience and tying into a Chancellor’s Fellowship research project he has undertaken.

Wilke, who has applied to Harvard and Northwestern University for doctoral studies, will take some first-hand experience back to Israel this summer.

“People think that archeology isn’t like ‘Indiana Jones’ or ‘Laura Kroft,’ but sometimes it really is,” she said.

Last summer, in addition to the sounds of waves from the Mediterranean Sea, the “background noise” included small arms fire and field artillery. One round, a Palestinian Qassam rocket, landed on a close-by beach.

“The senior staffers looked around and said ‘we’re ok’ and we got back to work,” she said. “After a while you don’t even realize it’s going on and accept it as part of the background noise like the sounds of the ocean.”

In addition to the excavation work, the pair will visit several historic sites and will attend nightly lectures by professionals working in the area.

“These are the people you see on the Discovery Channel,” Wikle said. “These are the folks who are writing history and it’s amazing to be a part of that.”

People can follow Wikle and Lowrey on their summer experiences on a Facebook page at Adventures in Ashkelon.

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Troy University social sciences majors Hilary Wikle, of Ozark, and Jonathan Lowrey, of Troy, will spend seven weeks this summer at the archaeological dig site at Ashkelon, Israel as part of Harvard University’s Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, the oldest and largest seaport known in Israel. (TROY photo)