Last weekend I had the privilege to be with Trent and Rebekah Dutton. The Duttons are a great couple with an interesting story. Both are computer programmers with experience in military applications. Their interest in biblical geography and archaeology grew as they taught Bible classes at church, and piqued after a tour of Israel with Ferrell Jenkins in 2012. In short, they made a career change and are starting the two-year process to earn an M.A. in Biblical Archaeology at Wheaton College. (They were both accepted to Wheaton and are going through the program concurrently.) The first stage of their program is to excavate at Ashkelon with the Leon Levy Expedition for its full six-week season, followed by a semester of coursework in Jerusalem. They will then move to the Chicago area for the remaining 1-1/2 years of the program (with another Bible Lands dig next summer to boot.)
They and I have mutual friends who helped us to connect in Israel and spend part of a weekend together.
After Ein Gedi we went to the Dead Sea for a long, relaxing float as the sun began to set. I’m afraid I have no photo of that experience since my camera batteries had died, though the Duttons were able to get some nice shots of their first experience in the water. We enjoyed a quiet Friday evening by the Dead Sea as Shabbat (Sabbath) began and rested for our adventures the next day.
Our Sabbath morning began by driving south along the Dead Sea and then moving up into the Negev toward the ancient city of Arad.
After Arad we drove WNW to Beersheba (Beer Sheva). This city was considered the southern boundary of Israelite settlement. (“From Dan to Beersheba…”) Abraham spent a number of years around Beer Sheva and no doubt would have entered the city from time to time for trade, consultations, negotiations for water/grazing rights, etc.
Iron Age Beer Sheva had casemate walls with private dwellings abutting the inner wall. This architectural style did not exist in Philistea, Canaanite cities, or in northern Israel. In Canaan, this design was unique to Judah and can be found at other southern sites such as Khirbet Qeiyafa and Tel en-Nasbeh (Mizpah).
After Beersheba we drove north to the Judean foothills (Shephelah). Most restaurants are closed on Saturdays due to Shabbat, so we enjoyed a nice gas station lunch by the Elah Valley consisting of sandwiches, chips, and chocolate. As it happens, Khirbet Qeiyafa was just a few minutes from our lunch spot…
After giving the Duttons a tour of Khirbet Qeiyafa, we drove to the coast, to the land of the ancient Philistines, where they gave me a tour of Ashkelon.
We ended our day with a hot meal by the beach in modern Ashkelon. The Duttons went to their excavation hotel to rest up for work the next day while I drove back to Jerusalem that evening. From the Dead Sea to the Negev, to the Shephelah, to the coast, to Jerusalem – with numerous site visits – all in one day. And with great company.
As I write this, the Duttons are in their last week with the Ashkelon excavation. You can follow their blog as they wrap up the dig and prepare for a semester in Jerusalem.