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Can you dig it? CSB/SJU students ready to discover ancient Roman artifacts during archaeological dig in Israel

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May 31, 2016

By Tommy Benson '17

The 2015 Team: (From left to right) Conor Murphy, Jason Schlude, Benjamin Baumann, Erin Baumer, Megan Lundquist.

Archaeology is not a requirement in the core curriculum at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, but that does not stop Bennies and Johnnies from stretching their liberal arts education even further.

In the summer of 2015, Jason Schlude, assistant professor of classics in the Department of Languages and Cultures at CSB/SJU, led his first troop of Bennies and Johnnies to Omrit, Israel, to excavate a Roman-period settlement. Schlude will lead another group to the site this summer.

Among the 2015 group was Benjamin Baumann, an SJU senior history major; Erin Baumer, a CSB junior classics and mathematics double-major; Megan Lundquist, a 2016 CSB graduate who majored in environmental studies major; and Conor Murphy, an SJU senior biology major.

The next band of students taking the trip this year are SJU students Fabian Crisanto, a senior history major; John Fitzpatrick, a sophomore elementary education major; and Rafael Roman, a junior elementary education major. CSB's Aimee Hanson, a junior classics major, completes the group.

The 2015 group brought their separate educational backgrounds into the dig. The four worked together under the guidance of Schlude to discover ancient artifacts among the ruins, to remove the dust and identify the roles they played in the antiquated Holy Land. The majority of these artifacts came from under the sandy dig-site that hosted a Greco-Roman temple complex consisting of three temples.

What Lundquist described as "intense gardening" became a passion for the troop.

"It's hard not to get super excited about a project when you spend so much time on it. I didn't know I would be as passionate about archeology, but I did once I became so immersed," Lundquist said.

The immersion started each day at 4:15 a.m., when the members would rise before the sun to avoid the heat of the day. Heading to the dig site shortly after, they would dig until 11:45 a.m., with a 45-minute breakfast and one short tea break for respite. This arduous routine was repeated every day, only taking Sundays off.

Despite the physical labor and the scorching sun, the students and the staff enjoyed themselves splendidly.

"It was hard work, but all the professors were out there and they made it fun. The work did not feel like work at all," Murphy said.

"The instructors' enthusiasm was contagious," Lundquist said.

When the students hung up their boots, they were able to explore their environment even further. In their adventures, they marveled at such historic landmarks as the Western Wall in Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

"The excursion to the Dead Sea was so impactful, with the culmination of all those passionate faiths intersecting," Lundquist said.

"Seeing the Western Wall in Jerusalem stuck out for me. [With the Jewish temple it supported] having been torn down in 70 A.D., it showed how old the Jewish faith is. We never see anything so old in the United States," Murphy said.

In his enthusiasm, Murphy even put together a short film that captures some of the imagery and action of these site visits.

The 2015 team believes the 2016 group will be well prepared.

"CSB and SJU is just so well rounded that I never felt uncomfortable being a biology major and doing archaeology. The liberal arts prepared me through taking history and sociology courses," Murphy said.

On the contrary, the biggest piece of advice offered by Lundquist has nothing to do with specific knowledge at all. She recommends forging strong and trustworthy relationships with their fellow students.

"When you're stuck in a five by five square, get to know your square mates," said Lundquist with a smile.

For more information about the CSB/SJU archaeological field school at Omrit, see the Omrit website or contact Jason Schlude.