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You can learn more about Kate's trip and see pictures of their work at Macalester's website.
Kate Larson, an archaeologist working at the Science Museum, is excavating a 2000-year-old temple in Israel. The Omrit dig site was once part of the Roman Empire, and Larson and the rest of the excavation team hope to gain a better understanding of what the ancient Roman world was like.
While taking an archaeology class at Macalester College on a whim, Larson fell in love with the subject. She worked at the Omrit dig site-which is coordinated and partially sponsored by the college-two years ago as an undergraduate student; this year, Larson is back as a senior staff member. She says, "Holding a piece of pottery that hasn't been touched for two thousand years just fills me with awe. I like to imagine what that pot might have seen, what its user's life was like."
Macalester College professor J. Andrew Overman and his crew have exclusive rights to work at the Omrit site from the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), which regulates all archaeological activity in Israel.
Since beginning work at Omrit in 2000, the team has learned that the temple is part of a larger marketplace complex, and was built in several stages. They still haven't figured out an exact date of construction, or whom the temple was dedicated to. Larson says, "We have a lot of circumstantial evidence that it was commissioned and built for Augustus, the first Roman emperor. But there's no 'smoking gun.'"
Exploring the ancient history of the site is only part of the adventure of living and working in modern-day Israel. The finds from the site are stored in an old bomb shelter, and part of the site can't be studied due to landmines in the area. "In antiquity, just like modern times, this was a hotly contested area that changed hands frequently. It's a crossroads of trade and the water source for much of Israel. Fortunately for us, the area is pretty quiet and safe right now."