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UPIKE alumni president joins archaeological excavation in Israel

July 25, 2017 12:00 AM
Pikeville, Ky.
Archaeology of ancient civilizations may seem like a topic a world away from eastern Kentucky. However, the University of Pikeville (UPIKE) has been bringing the archaeology of ancient Israel to the community through a museum exhibit, guest archaeologists and other events for the last two years. Those relationships have resulted in UPIKE being named a major sponsor of the Associates of Biblical Research (ABR) expedition at Shiloh for the summer of 2017. For the first time the university has been a named partner for a major archaeological excavation of a site from the ancient world.

Located north of Jerusalem in the highlands of Israel, Shiloh saw various periods of occupation from as early as 1750 B.C. through the Biblical periods to the Byzantine period when four churches were constructed. The site is best remembered for the period of Israelite occupation from circa 1400 B.C. through approximately 1050 B.C. The Bible relates how the Israelite tabernacle at the site housed the Ark of the Covenant during this period.

The excavation at Shiloh was conducted over four weeks from May 21 through June 17. On average 1,500 pottery sherds were excavated daily and more than 700 objects were discovered including jewelry, tools and weapons. Among the exciting finds were two scarabs and a seal impression that will add to knowledge of the site once they have been studied.

“The University of Pikeville’s participation in the excavation at Ancient Shiloh proved critical to the success of the project. I look forward to their continued involvement in the upcoming seasons,” said Scott Stripling, D.Min., director of excavations at Shiloh.

UPIKE was represented at the Shiloh excavation by Tommy Chamberlin, alumni association president. Chamberlin is the director of the archaeology exhibit on display in downtown Pikeville and serves the county as chief assistant Pike County attorney. During his time in Jerusalem, Chamberlin hosted a dinner on behalf of the university for several well-known archeologists and up-and-coming archeologists.

“Working on an archaeological excavation at a site where Biblical history occurred was an amazing experience,” said Chamberlin. “In my square we discovered an ancient scarab and the inner face of the ancient city wall. I wondered who walked past this place in antiquity – perhaps the prophet Samuel himself. Personally I was lucky to discover what may be the majority of a large storage jar from the Middle Bronze period. It was hard to contain my excitement as I came upon the top of the rim and realized this was something different from the pottery we had been seeing.”

The large pottery vessel Chamberlin discovered is likely a Middle Bronze storage jar or pithos from circa 1700 B.C. The ancient jar is shattered into numerous pieces and Stripling is optimistic that the artifact is restorable.

“In June 2017 the team from the University of Pikeville excavated a large pithos [storage jar] at Ancient Shiloh. As part of ABR’s ongoing partnership with the university, I have asked the faculty and students to reconstruct the 3,700 year old vessel,” said Stripling. “This reconstruction will help us understand life in the Land of the Bible in the Middle Bronze III period.”

UPIKE will attempt to restore the vessel this fall as a project that will include students from various fields of study at the university. Upon completion, the pithos will be put on public display.

“We are excited to bring this artifact back to life at the University of Pikeville. To be able to slowly see this ancient vessel restored by our students is an amazing opportunity for both our university and the community,” said Chamberlin.

Visitors to the exhibit – Khirbet el-Maqatir & a Journey through Biblical History – will have the opportunity to see some pottery from the time of the Israelite tabernacle that was recovered during the summer excavation. The museum exhibit is open on Fridays from 1 to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding lunch. Public hours continue through the end of August and the exhibit is available by appointment in September and October. For more information or to schedule a group tour, contact Chamberlin at

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