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Department of Religious Studies|College of Arts & Sciences

Professor, Paul Flesher
Religious Studies Department
Ross Hall 133
Phone: 307-766-2616

Contact Us

Department of Religious Studies
Kristine Utterback, Head
Office Associate:
Clayleen Rivord
Ross Hall, Room 122
Department 3392
1000 E. University Ave
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: 307-766-3204
Fax: 307-766-2096
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Dig at Huqoq!

2015 Huqoq information

The University of Wyoming and its Religious Studies Department announce an exciting opportunity for students study abroad—a month-long opportunity to participate in the excavation of an ancient Galilean village and synagogue! To find out more, keep reading . . .

The Huqoq Excavation Project

The ancient village of Huqoq is located on the hills above the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum lies less than 5 miles to the northeast and Magdala (modern Migdal) where Mary Magdalene was born is just 3 miles to the southeast. Huqoq provides beautiful vistas of the lake and the geological basin that contains it. Although never mentioned in the New Testament, Jesus would often have seen Huqoq’s buildings from afar as he walked and sailed about the area. Huqoq was known in more ancient times, being mentioned in descriptions of tribal territories in Joshua 19:34 and 1 Chronicles 6:75.

The main goal of the Huqoq Excavation Project (HEP) is to understand the remains of the ancient synagogue, perhaps dated to the 4th or 5th century CE, in the context of the village culture in which it participated. Through this focus, the excavators hope the dig will contribute evidence to the current scholarly debate over the dating of synagogues built after the first century CE. The first season’s excavations (2011) uncovered the large ashlar stones of the synagogue wall, while the second, third and fourth seasons (2012-2014) revealed portions of the synagogue’s mosaic floor. These show a mosaic inscription, two scenes from the Samson story (Judges 13-16), and military (?) scene showing soldiers and two elephants. (See links below for more information.)

Several houses in the village surrounding the synagogue are also being excavated, with the aim of uncovering clues to the villagers’ lifestyle and level of prosperity. All excavation is being done using the latest scientific methodology for understanding the diet, climate, environment and economic character of the time. The village’s miqveh has also been excavated. Future seasons will continue these directions of inquiry.

The University of Wyoming is a sponsoring institution for the HEP, which is led by Director Dr. Jodi Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Dr. Magness is an internationally known archaeologist whose publications range from the archaeology of Qumran to the early Islamic settlement of Palestine. She has led excavations at Roman-period sites for more than fifteen years. (For more about Dr. Magness, go here: The Co-Director is Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The dig is supported by consortium of sponsoring universities, which include the University of Wyoming, as well as, the University of Toronto, Brigham Young University and Trinity University.

Wyoming’s contingent is led by Dr. Paul Flesher, Professor of Religious Studies. Professor Flesher is a historian of Judaism during the Roman and Byzantine periods whose research focuses on ancient synagogues and the literature associated with their worship known as the Targums (i.e., Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible). (For more on Dr. Flesher’s research, go here:

A Typical Day

Digging takes place six days a week, Sunday through Friday. Participants and staff board the bus to the site each morning at 4:30 am and begin excavating at 5:00. There is an hour break for breakfast on the site at 8:00 and digging continues until noon, when the bus takes everyone back to the kibbutz for a 1:00 lunch. After rest time, afternoon and evening activities regularly include pottery washing, training in excavation techniques, lectures by dig staff, and short excursions to nearby archaeological sites. On Saturdays, there is a longer trip to important archaeological sites further away.

Archaeological excavation is hard, physical work in an outdoor setting. It will include moving dirt and hauling rocks using tools ranging from picks and wheel barrows to hand trowels and sifters. Temperatures may range up to 100 degrees (or more), and excavators will be exposed to sun, wind, dust, and other outdoor hazards.

Living Arrangements

Participants are housed at the Huqoq Ba-Lev Guesthouse located at Kibbutz Huqoq in rural Galilee. Each air-conditioned room sleeps 2-3 people and has a private shower and bathroom, with coffee and tea, a small refrigerator, and regular maid service. The guesthouse has a small grocery store.

The dig provides three meals a day, with breakfast on the site and lunch and dinner in the guesthouse dining hall.

Dates of the Huqoq Excavation Project, Summer 2015

May 28    Fly to Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, Israel
May 29    Arrive Tel Aviv, meet the staff and travel to Huqoq
May 30    Begin Excavation
June 28   Travel to Tel Aviv and return to USA

Academic Credit

Students who participate in Huqoq’s excavation program will enroll in two courses and receive six University of Wyoming academic credits. The two courses are:

RELI 4500-01      Excavation Field Experience in Galilee
RELI 4500-02      Archaeology and History of Galilee
All courses are taught in English.

Application Requirements

Students applying must have a minimum 2.5 GPA and be of rising sophomore standing. The deadline for application is March 10, 2015. Applications should be submitted to Professor Paul Flesher, Religious Studies Department, 766-2616, .

An application consists of:

1) Academic transcripts
2) Letter of reference from a faculty member
3) A 2-3 page essay answering the following question: How will the Huqoq archaeological experience contribute to your education plans?
4) A deposit of $500.00 as initial payment of trip expenses.
5) Application Letter and Application Form

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis, with decisions made within two weeks.


The following chart lists the costs for the four weeks of the dig. Payments for tuition and the Fixed Expenses must be made in three installments, due March 10th ($500 deposit), April 1 (1st half of the remainder), and April 24 (second half of the remainder). These should be paid to Ms. Clayleen Rivord of the Religious Studies Department, Ross Hall 123. If you have scholarships, fellowships or grants that will pay some of these expenses, please coordinate with Ms. Rivord.

Note: If you do not have a USA passport, you will need to apply for one. Cost is $140.00.

Fixed Expenses

Dig Fee (Excavation expenses plus, room & board)


UW Study Abroad fee


UW Study Abroad insurance (mandatory)


Mid-Month excursion 200.00
Special Reduction -360.00
Total Fixed Expenses $4312.00

Additional Costs

Flight to Israel (estimated)


Tuition (6 credits)

In state   


Out of state


Total Costs (estimated)





Financial Aid

Applications are due March 10, 2015 to Professor Flesher. Other scholarship opportunities are available elsewhere, with application deadlines ranging from the first of October to the early part of the Spring semester. A partial listing can be found at:


Participants should make sure that their Tetanus shot is up to date. They should also have current Hepatitis A&B vaccinations, although all UW students are required to have this as part of their enrollment. No other vaccinations are recommended.

Additional reading information:

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