A Selection of Slides from our 2013 Dig Season with Participants and Finds:
The project is under the academic oversight of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte – the only American university licensed to carry out such excavations in Jerusalem. Dr. James Tabor, chair of the Department of Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte, and Dr. Shimon Gibson, Israeli archaeologist, Fellow at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem and adjunct professor at UNC Charlotte, co-direct the project.
Discovery: A stone cup inscribed with 10 lines of ancient Hebraic script. A coin of Pontius Pilate. A threshold to a gate dating back to Saladin. What may seem like simple discoveries reveal the convergence of three of the world’s most influential religions and their role in the broader historical, religious, cultural and political dynamics of the Middle East and greater humanity. The purpose of the Mount Zion project is to expose, examine and preserve all levels of habitation over the course of Jerusalem’s 3,000-year history. The site shows evidence of habitation from the modern period back through Ottoman, Islamic, Crusader, Byzantine, Roman and ancient Israelite levels. This project is a unique opportunity for the city of Charlotte to have an historic presence in the Old City.
Research: The project includes the scientific study and analysis of finds at this historic site as well as their publication in both academic and non-academic venues. We anticipate providing educational programs that will include bringing some of our finds to Charlotte to provide the region with a direct experience of our discoveries and their importance for Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others fascinated with our cultural past.
Education: At the heart of the program is a summer experience in Jerusalem for UNC Charlotte students. Their experiences are supplemented with coursework in Charlotte as well as extended study abroad opportunities in history, languages and cultures of the region. Students explore the ancient remains of three civilizations – Jewish, Christian and Islamic. Mount Zion offers students an intimate experience in the Old City with its historic Jewish, Armenian, Christian and Muslim quarters, and is minutes away from the resources of Hebrew University and the wider metropolis of modern Jerusalem, both Jewish and Palestinian. Students working specifically in the areas of the history of Judaism and Christianity; International Studies; Jewish/Islamic Studies; Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Studies; Cultural Anthropology; and Archaeology find the experience relevant and transformative to their programs.
The area chosen for archaeological study is situated close to a number of important places in the history of the city, namely the Praetorium where Jesus was tried before Pontius Pilate, and the House of Caiaphas and the other priestly families in the Upper City of Jerusalem in the first century CE. In the Byzantine period, the area was situated at the southern end of the Cardo Maximus, which was a grand columned street and in its vicinity Justinian (mid 6th century) built a very large church. The crest of Mount Zion was a focus for the building of houses in the Early Islamic Period. The Crusaders and the Ayyubids built their fortifications across the crest of the hill, and in the early 13th century, the local Sultan destroyed the gate-tower, which was located in the area of the excavation.