FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – A major archaeology journal recently featured Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s excavations in the biblical city of Tel Gezer, Israel. According to Archaeologist Steven Ortiz, this may be “the first time in decades that an evangelical, let alone a Southern Baptist, project has had such a high profile.”
Photos of Tel Gezer appear on the cover of the first 2012 issue of Near Eastern Archaeology (NEA), published by the American Schools of Oriental Research. Additionally, the journal features an essay describing the results of the past five years of research on the Iron Age fortifications at Tel Gezer, dating to the time of the biblical kings David and Solomon.
“Just five years ago, Southwestern was not even known for archaeology,” said Ortiz, associate professor of archaeology and biblical backgrounds at Southwestern, director of the Charles D. Tandy Institute for Archaeology, and principle investigator at Tel Gezer. “Now to be featured on the cover of NEA illustrates the great strides that have been accomplished here.”
“It is providential to have the archaeological field research and the Dead Sea Scrolls research here at Southwestern featured in the same year,” Ortiz said, noting the seminary’s upcoming Dead Sea Scrolls & the Bible exhibition, which opens in July. “Southwestern has quickly demonstrated that it is capable of being a major center of research for biblical archaeology and the biblical text.”
Southwestern has sponsored the Gezer Research Project since 2007, under the direction of Ortiz and Sam Wolff of the Israeli Antiquities Authority. Ortiz and Wolff co-authored the essay in this issue of NEA, which “deals with border issues during the time of the Judean monarchy.” The essay analyzes the findings from the most recent excavations at Tel Gezer.
“Gezer is an important site for current issues in biblical archaeology,” Ortiz said. “After five seasons of excavations, this is a great opportunity to provide the first extensive overview of the work of the Tandy Institute for Archaeology.”
Thomas Davis, professor of archaeology and biblical backgrounds at Southwestern, said, “The Gezer cover story in NEA is a product of the high level of respect our program receives from our secular, professional peers. This sends a clear signal to prospective students that Southwestern has a high quality program in archaeology.”
Southwestern Seminary is one of very few institutions to offer both the Master of Arts and Ph.D. in archaeology and biblical studies. Alongside the Gezer Research Project, the seminary also sponsors the Tel Gezer Regional Survey Project, led by Eric Mitchell, associate professor of Old Testament and archaeology. Southwestern also sponsors excavations in Kourion, Cyprus, under Davis’ direction.
Beginning this July, Southwestern Seminary will also host the Dead Sea Scrolls & the Bible exhibition, which will feature at least 16 ancient scrolls, including seven of the seminary’s own scrolls that have never been publically displayed. Faculty members from Southwestern Seminary have taken a lead role in researching these scroll fragments, preparing them for publication in major academic journals.
An interactive, educational dig site has been constructed in conjunction with this exhibition. Elementary, junior high and high school students, as well as adults, who come to the exhibition can pick up a spade and learn how archaeologists uncover the past through an interactive replica of Qumran, the ancient site inhabited by the Jewish sect that likely preserved the Dead Sea Scrolls. During this educational experience, students can unearth and take home a 2,000-year-old pottery sherd donated by the Smithsonian Institute. Archaeology students at Southwestern with excavation field experience will supervise the site and offer instruction on the latest in archaeological techniques and methods.
To learn more about the Gezer Research Project and Southwestern Seminary’s involvement in archaeology, visit