Israel - Archaeological field school (Horvat Midras)

CNRS 335 or CNRS 535 | 3 credits

About the program

This course is led by UBC faculty member Gregg Gardner.  

Date: July 17 to August 8, 2022 (tentative)

Topic: Principles and methods of field archaeology as practiced in the Mediterranean and Near East today.

Locations visited: Horvat Midras site, Israel.

Funding: This is an Arts Research Abroad (ARA) funded program. The ARA program aims to ensure that upper-level international research courses are accessible to academically qualified students, and that scholarly preparation and aspiration rather than financial means are the deciding factors for student participation. Funded by a generous gift from donors, the Faculty of Arts, and Go Global, the ARA program sponsors advanced research-intensive courses involving international travel. 70% of the program cost will be offset for academically qualified students; and up to 100% of the cost may be offset for academically qualified students who demonstrate financial need (as determined by Enrolment Services). 

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. 

About the course 

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 and history of ancient Palestine, with special attention to the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ayyubid and Mamluk and Roman eras ((fourth century BCE through sixteenth century CE)). It will include fieldwork, guided study trips to other archaeological sites in the area, visits to 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, Roman polytheistic, Byzantine Christian, and early Islamic communities. It also includes several underground hiding complexes and 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. 

Our excavations this season aim to illuminate the socio-economic and religious 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 marked today in the Jewish holiday of Hanukah. 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 Judea in the first century B.C.E. Herod is famous for his large-scale construction projects, including enlarging the Jerusalem Temple and Temple Mount. 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 132–136 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 this season will focus on the remains of the late Hellenistic and 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. We will also study the remains of a tower built during the Ayyubid period (12th-13th century) over the former Roman-era public building, to overlook the nearby road. We will also exam settlement during the Mamluk era, which is evident from the rich finds and imported pottery, as well as early Ottoman documentary sources. 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, you will contribute directly to the research goals of the excavation and create new scholarly knowledge. By excavating, recording, processing, and identifying new archaeological finds, you will contribute towards the discovery, collection, and interpretation of new sources on the ancient and medieval world. Your participation in this course will directly enhance our knowledge of the history and material culture of the Near East. 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.

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

Experience in the field 

Locations visited

Israel – Horvat Midras, Jerusalem (2 full days), Tel-Aviv (1 full day), Dead Sea, Masada, Ein Gedi; other local sites, e.g, Beit Guvrin, Maresha, etc.  

A typical day in the program

Typical Daily Schedule, Mondays through Fridays (the weekends will consist of longer field trips to Jerusalem, Dead Sea, Masada, Tel-Aviv, etc.) 

Every day: bring hat (with wide-brim), personal water bottle, sunscreen; wear proper excavation attire (pants, clothes-toed shoes, etc.), and bring supplies for excavating (field notebook, pencils, ruler, etc.) 

4:30 Wake up 

5:00 Meet at office for coffee, cookies, and to load equipment into the vans 

5:15 Leave Kibbutz Bet Guvrin for Horvat Midras excavation site 

5:30 Arrive at excavation site, unload equipment from the container at the base camp, go to your excavation areas. Instructor will give overview instructions for the day and then begin excavating 

8:00 Break for breakfast at the excavation site (at base camp) 

9:00 Return to excavation areas and resume excavating 

11:00   Break for fruit (popsicles on Fridays) 

11:10   Resume excavating 

12:30   Begin to clean up and pack up the equipment 

12:45   Return to Kibbutz Bet Guvrin 

13:00   Lunch at office building 

14:00   Break/rest/free time at Kibbutz 

15:30   Afternoon activities vary according to the itinerary: field trips (study tours) to local archaeological sites (e.g., Bet Guvrin, Maresha, etc.); lectures in the classroom next to the office building; or free time at the kibbutz’s pool 

16:30   Dinner in office building 

Special environmental conditions

Israel is very hot during the summer. Students must be prepared for the heat – keep hydrated, use sunscreen, bring hats that protect against the sun. We will be getting up early, so that we can excavate in the mornings, which is the cooler part of the day. Also, the excavation squares will be covered to provide shade from the sun. All group activities usually end by 20:00 in order to get a full night’s sleep. 


Dormitories at Kibbutz Bet Guvrin. There is air conditioning in the dorm rooms, the large office where we eat, and in the classroom. The Kibbutz has a swimming pool and small grocery store. 

Eligibility requirements

  • Be enrolled in UBC Vancouver’s Faculty of Arts.
  • Be in your third, fourth, or final year of study.
  • Be enrolled in at least 24 credits in the Winter Session before the program and be registered in 24 credits in the current Winter Session, or sufficient to graduate.  Please note that students with exceptional circumstances regarding credit loads can identify themselves to Go Global to request an exemption from this requirement.
  • Have a minimum average of 70% with no failed or incomplete courses.
  • Further eligibility requirements particular to each program will be noted below.

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.  

How to apply

Application deadline 

January 27, 2022

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

*Please note that you can apply for up to a maximum of 2 Global Seminars*

Program fees and costs

ARA funding will offset 70%-100% of the CAD $4,400-4,700 in program fees and flight costs. 

Students are responsible for covering the cost of 3 credits of UBC tuition.

The final fee depends on the number of students in the program. Students do not pay the Go Global fee when applying to a Global Seminar. The Go Global fee ($415) is built into the Program Fee and is payable upon acceptance to the program. 

Global Seminars refund policy

To withdraw from your program, you must contact Go Global by email to request a withdrawal.  You will not be charged until you officially accept your spot in the program.  Refunds cannot be issued after the program fee is charged to your SSC account. 

In the case of withdrawal, Go Global Award funding must be returned in full.

If you have questions, please connect with your Go Global advisor or email Go Global at

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:

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


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:


You can contact Go Global by email, phone, in-person or virtually through Zoom.

Booking a virtual advising appointment

If you need to book an advising appointment, please email and provide an overview of the questions you have. Appointments will be held through Zoom or by phone.

Virtual drop-in advising is available on Tues, Dec 21 and Wed, Dec 22 from 1 to 3 pm PST through Zoom.

In-person drop-in advising hours

Go Global offers in-person drop-in advising at the UBC Life Building during the times below:

  • Tuesday: 1:00 - 3:00 pm
  • Wednesday: 1:00 - 3:00 pm

January Hours

Go Global will hold virtual reception hours on Tues, Jan 4 from 9:30 am to 11:30 am PST and 1 pm to 3:30 pm PST through Zoom.