Israel - Archaeological field school (Horvat Midras)

CNRS 335 or CNRS 535 | 3 credits

About the program

About the course 

This course is led by UBC faculty member Gregg Gardner

This course will train students in the principles and methods of field archaeology as practiced in the Mediterranean and Near East today by participating in the excavation of Horvat Midras in Israel. This course will also provide students with an understanding of the archaeology of ancient Palestine, with special attention to the Hellenistic and Roman eras (323 B.C.E. to 640 C.E.). It will include fieldwork, guided study trips to other archaeological sites in the area, visits to archaeological museums, and lectures.

Horvat Midras is a site located in Israel approximately 45 kilometers southwest of Jerusalem. Previous small-scale salvage excavations have shown that the site was one of the largest and wealthiest rural sites in the Judaean Foothills during the Roman period. The site features the remains of Jewish, Christian, and Roman communities. It also includes several underground passageways and unique tombs – including one marked by a magnificent pyramid as well as a rare example of a “rolling stone” tomb-like that mentioned in the New Testament.

Settlement at the site began in the Persian era (fourth century B.C.E.). Our excavations this season aim to illuminate the socio-economic and ethnic character of the region just before and after its conquest in the second century B.C.E. by the Hasmoneans. Also known as the Maccabees (literally, “hammers”), the Hasmoneans were a dynasty of Jewish military and political leaders whose victories over the Greeks are still celebrated today in the Jewish holiday of Hanukah. In particular, we hope to clarify the settlement patterns of the Idumeans (pagans who later converted to Judaism) and ethnic Jews in the area. Based on the identification of the site with ancient Drusias, named after Drusus of the family of the Roman Emperor Augustus, scholars have suggested that the site was populated by the Idumean elite, including, perhaps, the family of King Herod the Great – a prominent king of ancient Palestine in the first century B.C.E. who is mentioned in the New Testament and famous for enlarging the Temple and Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Herod may have initiated a construction project in Horvat Midras during his reign. Later and up until the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (the so-called “Bar Kokhba Revolt” from 132–135 C.E.) the site was a thriving large village with many agricultural installations. The inhabitants actively participated in the Second Revolt and the site was abandoned following the failure of the revolt. Our excavation seeks to help clarify the identities of those who re-settled the site as well as when and why they did so. By the fourth century C.E. the village was thriving again and in the fifth century, the population was predominantly Christian, as the site featured a large basilica church with magnificent mosaics built at its northern edge. The excavation at the site will focus on the remains of the early Roman settlement, a post-Second Revolt public building (possibly a Roman temple), two private dwellings, an underground ritual bath (miqveh) and cistern, and an elaborate system of underground hiding tunnels and caves used by the Jewish rebels during the Second Revolt against Rome. This project will be conducted in collaboration with Dr. Orit Peleg-Barkat of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Students will be doing more than just digging. Rather, students will contribute directly to the research goals and create new scholarly knowledge. By excavating, recording, processing, and identifying new archaeological finds, students will contribute towards the discovery, collection, and interpretation of new sources on the ancient world. Students’ participation in this course will directly enhance our knowledge of the history and material culture of the ancient Near East. Students’ work in this course will help shed new light on questions of continuity and change along with the turbulent history of this region. The coursework will also illuminate the region’s rural settlement patterns – a topic often overlooked and under-studied as scholars tend to focus on urban sites. In many ways, students’ work in this course will shed new light on the history of the region at a crucial moment in the life of the Roman empire and during the formative ages of Judaism and Christianity

This course can also count as credit towards UBC’s new Minor in Jewish Studies. For more information, visit Jewish Studies or contact 

Eligibility requirements

General Global Seminar requirements

  • You must have at least a 70% average in your most recent Winter Session of full-time studies prior to application
  • You need to be a UBC student in good standing (e.g., not be under academic or non-academic discipline) to participate in a Global Seminar
  • You should have full-time student status (as defined by your faculty) in the year prior to your Global Seminar
  • You must maintain 70% average prior to your Global Seminar departure
  • You must have completed or intend to complete the necessary (or equivalent) pre-requisite courses prior to Global Seminar start date
  • Unclassified students will be considered on a case-by-case basis
  • You will need to be accepted by the Program Director leading the Global Seminar

To be accepted for this Global Seminar, you have to meet both program-specific requirements as well as ARA eligibility criteria.

Program-specific requirements:

There are no pre-requisites for CNRS 335 and CNRS 535

Please note, CNERS majors can receive a maximum of 6 credits for CNRS 335 and CNERS MA students can receive a maximum of 3 credits for CNRS 535.  Please contact the CNERS advising office if you are unsure whether or not you can receive credit for this Global Seminar.  

ARA eligibility

  • Be enrolled in UBC Vancouver’s Faculty of Arts.
  • Be in their third, fourth, or final year of study.
  • Be enrolled in at least 24 credits in the academic year before the program
  • Must be registered in 24 credits in the current academic year, or sufficient to graduate
  • Have a minimum GPA of 70% with no fails or incompletes.
  • Students can only be considered for one major International Learning Award throughout their degree e.g. ARA (Arts Research Abroad) funded Global Seminars, Undergraduate Research Conference. 

General timelines

Please note that you are expected to attend 3 pre-departure meetings with lectures by Dr. Gardner before departure. Dates to be determined. 

Program dates: Summer 2021 

Application deadline

Monday, February 22, 2021

How to apply

  • Log in to the Gateway online application program
  • Select “Search Experiences” and type "VGS" to explore Global Seminars programs
  • Upload the application form for your selected Global Seminar – see Application documents below

You can apply for up to a maximum of 2 Global Seminars.

Students are encouraged to meet with the Program Director at an orientation session or one-on-one to learn more about the program.

Program fees and costs

This course has received an Arts Research Abroad ("ARA") Award that will benefit UBC undergraduate students in Arts by significantly reducing the cost of the program fee and flight.

UBC undergraduate students in Arts will pay: CAD $1,050 to $1,200 + tuition + partial flight

UBC undergraduate students in Arts who demonstrate financial need as determined by Enrolment services will pay: CAD $0 + tuition

All other students will pay the full cost: CAD $3,500 to $4,000 + tuition + flight

The program fee includes accommodation, program-related travel, and excursions (once in Europe), and the Go Global fee.  Participants are responsible for tuition, flights, visas and incidentals. 

Students do not pay the Go Global fee when applying to a Global Seminar. The Go Global fee is built into the Program Fee and is payable after acceptance into the program.  Students will not be charged any fees until programs have been confirmed. 

UBC understands the value and impact, that international programs can have on a students’ academic experience. The university also acknowledges the unpredictable nature of planning international programs during a global pandemic.  To learn more about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Go Global Programs, please visit the Go Global student FAQ during COVID-19

ARA funding

This program is jointly funded by Arts Research Abroad (ARA)  and Go Global. ARA is a funding body made of the Faculty of Arts – Dean’s Office and anonymous donors  that supports Virtual Global Seminars.

This funding will offset 100% of the program fees for this Virtual Global Seminar.


If you are considering applying for a Go Global program and identify with having a disability or pre-existing health condition (mental or physical) which could impact your participation, or if you require academic accommodations, you can contact the following offices and meet with an Accessibility Advisor before the start of the program:

Pre-departure policy

Safety abroad

UBC is committed to preparing students for safe and successful international experiences. In order to achieve this, any student participating in a Go Global Program must complete the following:

  • All UBC Student Safety Abroad requirements
  • Go Global Program-specific pre-departure requirements (includes both online and in-person components)

Failure to successfully complete these and any other requirements may result in withdrawal from the Go Global Program.


Global Seminars Advisor

Student Advising

Drop in advising - Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00-3:00pm

Please email with your student number in the subject line.

Global Seminars Advisor

Telephone: 604 822 0942

Fax: 604 822 9885

UBC Life Building
6138 Student Union Blvd
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1


9:00 am - 4:15 pm
9:00 am - 4:15 pm
9:00 am - 4:15 pm
9:00 am - 4:15 pm
9:00 am - 4:15 pm