Walking Mary's Well

A live travel blog, archaeological adventure in Israel, December 2012.


Over the course of this trip, we have spent time on multiple projects, including work in Yavne and Nazareth. A major section of the decade long Yavne excavations was concluded Dec 12, 13, and 14. The Yavne project has involved a mapping of the ancient city by Professor Phil Reeder of the University of South Florida, ground penetrating radar of over 20 acres by Professor Harry Jol of the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire and the geophysics team from Canada. The work unearthed thousands of glass shards, metal finds, coins, a medieval mosque and minaret area, Crusader walls, Byzantine pottery, and for the first time, a Roman layer with a beautiful plaster floor.

The Yavne story is unfolding with the artifacts but it is a tale associated one part of Jewish and biblical history: the origin of the "new" Sanhedrin in Yavne and the study house of Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, established when the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in the year 70 CE. There are scholars who think that the Yavne "experiment" helped launch all of the subsequent religious reforms from rabbinic Judaism, Christianity and later Islam.

Maha and Dr. Richard Freund have worked together on many archaeological projects but none have been more personal then the excavations in Nazareth. This year they began on Saturday night, after the end of Shabbat, on Dec 15th in the midst of one of the biggest public celebrations in recent memory in Nazareth. The team is excavating the basement of a store in Nazareth at one of the holiest locations for Greek Orthodox Christianity, the Church of the Annunciation by Mary's Well. The basement of this shop holds a bathhouse structure which may indeed date back thousands of years.

As the excavation of the bathhouse continues, the team starts a new Nazareth project at the Church of the Annunciation with the Greek Orthodox Church and the Municipality of Nazareth. These collaborations are important because they provide international connections. Gary Hochman is documenting our science research at Mary's Well and the Church of the Annunciation (Greek Orthodox) in Nazareth. Gary has more than 25 years of experience producing science programming for PBS, his work includes the PBS NOVA special, "Ancient Refuge in the Holy Land" on the Dead Sea Cave of Letters excavations.

Introducing the trip

Ein Tzurim Kibbutz.

Dec 13, 2012

Thursday - Flew into Tel-Aviv International Airport. Then hit Ein Tzurim Kibbutz early to rest up for our first days work.

Harry and Phil mapping site.

Dec 14, 2012

Friday - Spent the day at the Yavne site, then drove North through Tiberias to Karei Deshe (between Ginnosar and Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee.

Inside the Hospitaller Fortress.

Dec 15, 2012

Saturday - Explored the Grottos at Rosh Hanikra and the Baha'i Gardens at Akko. Then toured the old city of Akko and hiked Tel-Akko. We stayed the night at the Karei Deshe Guest House.

The Ancient Galilee Boat at the Yigal Allon Centre, "The Jesus Boat".

Dec 16, 2012

Visited the Ancient Galilee Boat at the Yigal Allon Centre. Spent the evening at Mary's Well in Nazareth. Slept at Kibbutz Ginosar.

The team using ground penetrating radar and a fiber optic camera.

Dec 17, 2012

Monday - We spent the whole day at the Church of the annunciation in Nazareth using ground penetrating radar, a fiber optic camera, and electrical resestivity tomagraphy to look in the walls and floor.

Randy Shinduke using a fiber optic scope at the Church of the Annunciation.

Dec 18, 2012

Tuesday - The team returned to the Greek Orthodox Church of the annunciation in Nazareth to use ground penetrating radar and electrical resestivity tomagraphy behind the church.

The bathing pools at Qumran, next to the Dead Sea.

Dec 19, 2012

Wednesday - The team travelled to Qumran, the site of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery. We also checked ou the Dead Sea.

The city of Jerusalem.

Dec 20, 2012

Thursday - Our final day was spent touring the city of Jerusalem. Our tour was given by Fred Strickett.