Archaeology Discovery Weekend will dig into Egypt’s storied past

October 21, 2011

By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( The massive Israelite exodus from Egypt after more than 400 years of captivity has been the subject of grand-scale Hollywood movies, countless sermons, theological lessons and children’s stories.

And while there has been no archaeological evidence to support the account found in the Old Testament books of Exodus and Numbers, over the past 20 years archaeological and geological research sheds new light on the ancient Egyptian fort system along Egypt’s border that factors into the exodus story. These discoveries assist in tracing the route of the exodus out of Egypt, says James Hoffmeier, a professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern History and Archaeology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The institution is part of Trinity International University in Deerfield, Ill.

On Nov. 13 at 6 p.m., at La Sierra University’s Hole Memorial Auditorium, Hoffmeier will present this information in a lecture titled “The Route of the Exodus and the Location of the Re(e)d Sea.” The presentation is a keynote event for La Sierra’s third annual Archaeology Discovery Weekend scheduled for Nov. 12 and 13 on the theme, “Egypt: The Lure of its Storied Past.” The title of Hoffmeier’s talk incorporates both the common translation of the Hebrew name of the sea, the Red Sea, and the original translation as the Sea of Reeds.

The presentation is based on geological research in the north Sinai desert and Hoffmeier’s excavations there of ancient forts at Tell el-Borg, just east of the Suez Canal, a waterway in Egypt that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. Satellite imagery will be used during the presentation “to reconstruct the ancient environment on Egypt’s eastern frontier, the very area where the Bible reports the exodus to have occurred,” says Hoffmeier.

Archaeology Discovery Weekend events begin at 3 p.m. on Nov. 12 with presentations and a panel discussion on ancient inscriptions. Panelists will include archaeologists and professors Lawrence Geraty, Douglas Clark and Kent Bramlett, all of La Sierra University, and William Dever, archaeologist and emeritus professor of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona.

The weekend will offer a wide variety of activities ranging from an on-campus excavation activity for elementary and middle school-aged children; hands-on labs in which guests learn to write in hieroglyphics, reconstruct ancient pottery, grind grain and make tools; archaeology lectures on life in patriarchal Egypt; a teachers’ workshop for elementary and secondary teachers; tea and sweets in a goat-hair Bedouin hospitality tent; Falafel bar, lentil soup for purchase by Green Olive Grill, and a Middle Eastern banquet.

General admission is free. The children’s on-campus dig is $5, the teachers’ workshop is $75 and includes continuing education credit, and the Middle Eastern banquet is $50. Reservations for the children’s dig and banquet are required by Nov. 9 and for the teachers’ workshop by Nov. 7. Reservations can be made at 951-785-2041 or at

A full schedule of events can be found here.

Dr. James Hoffmeier, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Dr. James Hoffmeier, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Archaeology Discovery Weekend is produced by the university’s School of Religion which also houses an archaeology minor program and organizes biennial excavations for students and faculty at La Sierra’s long-running Tall ‘Umayri dig on the Madaba Plains in central Jordan. The next excavation season takes place in summer 2012. Information is at

A celebration: 40 years of unearthing ancient secrets

Archaeology Discovery Weekend will also serve as a first venue for La Sierra archaeologists Geraty and Clark to unveil a 40th anniversary volume of excavations in Jordan. The book, titled “The Madaba Plains Project: Forty Years of Research into Jordan’s Past,” was published in May by Equinox Publishing Ltd. in Sheffield, England.  Geraty wrote the work’s first chapter and Clark co-edited the book and wrote the fourth chapter. They will introduce the book to the broader archaeological community at a meeting in mid November of the American Schools of Oriental Research, a Boston-based archaeological organization in which both professors have held past leadership roles.

The Madaba Plains Project is a three-dig site consisting of Tall ‘Umayri, an excavation Clark currently directs, Tall Hisban and Tall Jalul. The book includes among its authors other leading archaeologists involved in the Madaba Plains Project and describes in detail the tireless work of painstaking excavations and the discoveries of artifacts that have helped the Kingdom of Jordan document its rich past. The volume is dedicated to Geraty and his wife, Gillian Geraty as co-founders of the Madaba Plains Project, and includes prefaces by Jordan’s Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan and the late Fawwaz Al-Khraysheh, Jordan’s former Department of Antiquities Director General.

“The contributions of the Tall Hisban expedition, which later evolved into the [Madaba Plains Project] as it moved to other sites such as ‘Umayri, Jawa South, and Jalul, are immense and can be justifiably regarded as a turning point in the archaeology of Jordan,” wrote Princess Sumaya. “…The MPP also served as a training ground for a multitude of young archaeologists, both Jordanian and American, who later went on to initiate their own projects, and helped forge friendships between American and Jordanian professionals and students.”

La Sierra began leading archaeological endeavors at Tall ‘Umayri in 1994, a year after Geraty took La Sierra’s helm as president, a position he held for 14 years. Geraty had been excavating on the Madaba Plains since 1968 when he began digging at the project’s first site, Tall Hisban, under the late Siegfried Horn, a religion and archaeology professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich. Clark joined Geraty at Tall Hisban in 1973.

Significant finds over the years at Tall Hisban and Tall ‘Umayri include the only two Roman-period family tombs in Jordan sealed with rolling stones; a series of Ammonite pottery pieces on which ancient peoples inscribed information; a coin-sized Baalis seal impression mentioning an Ammonite king otherwise known only from the biblical prophet Jeremiah; a 3,000-year-old four-room house complete with pottery, stoneware, alabaster, metal and other artifacts; a Late Bronze Age shrine with an altar and a bench for offerings to a series of stone idols.

La Sierra’s archaeological collection includes about 20,000 pieces and objects overall, with 5,000 to 7,000 dug from the Tall ‘Umayri site. The latter pieces are on loan from Jordan’s Department of Antiquities. The university holds the largest collection in the United States of daily life artifacts from Jordan, Palestine and Israel. It is planning to raise sufficient funds to build a museum in which to house and better share its treasure trove of ancient, Middle Eastern history.


PR Contact: Larry Becker

Executive Director of University Relations

La Sierra University

Riverside, California

951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  October 27, 2011