Fall 2009
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TROY student unearths experience of a lifetime in Israel


Troy University student Hilary Wikle had the summer of a lifetime.

Wikle, a senior social sciences major originally from Atlanta, spent seven weeks in Israel as a transient student as a part of the Harvard University Field School in Archaeology, helping to uncover priceless artifacts dating back to Biblical days.

“To say it was a life-changing experience doesn’t do it justice,” Wikle said. “We were uncovering things that were written about in the Bible. It really was a spiritual experience.”

The excavation was a part of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, an ancient seaport city that once served as capital of Canaanite kings, the harbor of the Philistines and the area inhabited by Samson. Since 1985, a team of professional archaeologist have joined with students and volunteers to conduct annual excavations of the ancient city, which is located 35 miles south of Tel Aviv.

The field school was headed by Dr. Lawrence Stager, Dorot professor of the archaeology of Israel at Harvard University; and Wikle earned credit hours in her social sciences degree program for taking part in the excavation.

“My interest is in old-world archaeology, and I learned so much from taking part in this field school,” Wikle said. “It truly was amazing having lectures from some of the foremost experts in old-world archaeology. It really is an amazing opportunity for TROY students.”

Wikle learned of the opportunity through Dr. Bill Grantham, chair of TROY’s Criminal Justice and Social Sciences Department. Grantham actually worked at the same site where Wikle dug, as well as several others in the excavation.

“It was a good experience to work only a short distance away from where Dr. Grantham worked,” Wikle said. “I feel very fortunate to have Dr. Grantham’s leadership. I am very appreciative for this opportunity.”

However, it was not an opportunity without peril.

“We were digging right on the Gaza Strip, so we could regularly hear the boom of rockets exploding,” she said.

One missile even exploded in the same vicinity where they were working, although it was some distance away.
“I made it home without taking any shrapnel,” she said, laughing. “So, I guess it was a successful trip.”

The trip wasn’t always about work. The group was able to make several site-seeing trips during their stay, including a trip to the city of Jerusalem.

Wikle is unable to talk about many of the findings made during her trip because they have not been released publicly. However, she knows that the experience she gained in the field will be a benefit to her down the road.

Wikle plans to apply to the graduate archeology program at Harvard and one day would like to teach at the college level.

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