Mission & Objectives
The mission of the VIU School of Archaeology (VSA) is to study the organic, cause-and-effect relationships between biblical and ancient Near Eastern history discernable from archaeological, anthropological, and comparative literary inquiry, with the purpose of developing competent, biblically-grounded and Christ-centered archaeologists who are able to:
- Perform and/or direct methodologically-sound archaeological research, exploration, and excavation in the field.
- Demonstrate the historical authenticity and veracity of biblical narratives via professional publication and media.
- Contribute to a hermeneutical framework that comprehends the biblical record in the light of ancient Near Eastern contexts.
To accomplish these objectives, the VSA offers two programs of study (MA/PhD) in the field of archaeology and biblical history. In addition to academic research and laboratory analysis in the United States, students will engage in hands-on archaeological fieldwork in the Middle East (Tal el-Hammam Excavation Project/Sodom, or another site of your choice approved by the director) led by PhD program director, Dr. Steven Collins. After more than 14 seasons of excavation at the site, VSA archaeology students are in a prime position to excavate, research, evaluate and contribute to publishing the material data (see The Tall el-Hammam Excavations, Volume One (Eisenbrauns, 2015), Discovering the City of Sodom (Simon & Schuster, 2013), and The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible: Discoveries that Confirm the Reliability of Scripture (Harvest House, 2013).
Transfer of Credit
No more than 20% of graduate semester units or the equivalent in other units awarded by another institution may be transferred for credit toward a Master’s degree. For PhD students, at least 50% of the program must be completed at VIU to be eligible for graduation.
Fieldwork Excavation & Course Scheduling
From mid-January through the first week in March each year, the archaeology faculty will be excavating at Tall el-Hammam/Sodom (or other sites) throughout Europe and the Middle East. This is the time when MA/PhD students can fulfill their fieldwork requirements (a valid passport is required). Contact Dr. Steven Collins for more information, details, and requirements.
Therefore, spring semester residential course offerings will begin in late March. This will not effect those engaged in distance learning courses or thesis/dissertation writing.
Bible Lands Expedition (BLE)
Each October, several of the archaeology faculty lead the Bible Lands Expedition course to Israel and Jordan (sometimes Egypt). Academic credit (AR611 Historical Geography – 2 units) is available and may be applied to your MA/PhD degree program. A valid passport is required. The BLE is open to all degree programs. Contact Dr. Steven Collins for more information, details, and requirements. 2020 BLE Itinerary & Registration
The VIU Albuquerque site includes the Museum of Archaeology, designed to illuminate biblical history with pottery and objects from the ancient Near East. Ranging from the Neolithic through the Early Roman Period, over 500 artifacts are linked to Old and New Testament texts, revealing the material culture behind the stories of biblical characters such as Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, the prophets, and Jesus. The Museum also displays artifacts from Sodom (Tall el-Hammam, Jordan), the most biblically-significant ongoing excavation in the Holy Land (directed by Dr. Steven Collins of the VIU School of Archaeology). The Museum provides students with curatorial and hands-on experience with ancient artifacts, as well as supporting an understanding of how biblical and ANE history and chronology intertwine.
The historical and apologetic value of our students’ archaeological research of the ancient Near East positions each student to contribute to the discussion on biblical reliability based on primary research.
Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project (Sodom)
The Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project (TeHEP) is a joint scientific project between Veritas International University’s School of Archaeology & Biblical History (Albuquerque, NM, USA) and Trinity Southwest University’s College of Archaeology & Biblical History (Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA), and the Department of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Keeping up with the many exciting discoveries at and around Tall el-Hammam is a big task due to the large-scale nature of the Project. The site’s Bronze Age city-state territory spreads into the hills to the east and south, northeast up the Wadi Kafrein (Kufrayn) for several kilometers, north to it’s ‘border’ with the neighboring kingdom centered at Tall Nimrin, west to the Jordan River, and southwest to the Dead Sea. From the western acropolis of the upper/inner city, where the Bronze Age palace complex was located, the kings who ruled from Tall el-Hammam had direct line-of-sight contact with virtually all of the nearly 200 square kilometers (125 sq. miles) of their domain.
With massive Hammam-proper as its geographical and socio-political center, this Bronze Age kingdom dominated the southern Jordan Valley (the Jordan Disk, or Kikkar), indeed, the entire region, continuously for nearly 1,500 years, beginning about 3000 BC. At that time (Early Bronze 2), the first fortification system was constructed around the perimeter of the city. The site had begun (at least) during the 4th millennium BC, thriving for at least a thousand years as an open agricultural community (Chalcolithic through Early Bronze 1). But at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, dramatic disruptions in the relative peace of the region occurred, causing the inhabitants of Tall el-Hammam to construct a formidible defensive system that included a stone-and-mudbrick city wall 5.2m (17 ft.) thick and up to 15m (50 ft.) high, for a linear distance of over 2.5km, encircling the city. A wide, packed-earth/clay roadway followed the outer perimeter of the wall. Replete with towers, multiple gates, and (likely) crenellations, these defenses were impressive, to say the least. Possibly due to a severe earthquake around 2700 BC, the original EBA city wall was ‘deconstructed’ down to its most stable mudbrick courses (in places, down to its single-course stone foundation), then strengthened with a solid stone foundation (through its entire 5.2m thickness) 5 courses high, and topped with a mudbrick superstructure to its full width. This EB3 city wall rebuild served the Hammamites well for the next 750 years; of course, with periodic patching and refurbishing.
Recently-excavated balk sections intersecting the outer face of the EB2/3 city wall and exterior roadway reveal that this wall and street continued in use until a new, even more massive fortification system was commissioned toward the beginning of Middle Bronze 1 (ca. 1950 BC). This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that from the surface of the EBA/IBA roadway upward to the preserved height of the associated city wall, the area is covered by multiple layers (indeed, piles) of engineered fill of varying composition, comprising a base (substrate) for enormous MB1/2 city wall and earthen/mudbrick rampart defenses with a horizontal thickness of up to 33m (over 100 ft.). (The MBA fill materials covering the roadway contain EBA, IBA, and MB1 pottery fragments, with no evidence of erosional deposition, signaling continuous use of the wall and roadway from the time of its construction until buried by the later MB1 defensive system.) The MBA builders preserved a good portion of the previous 6m-thick city wall as a ‘foundation’ for the heaviest portion of their sloping, outer rampart/glacis (abutting their new 4m-thick city wall), then added three more ’embedded’ stabilizer walls into the mostly-mudbrick structure of their stepped, multi-sloped rampart. As large and impressive as the ‘original’ city wall had been during its seven-century lifespan, the MBA defensive system swallowed up its predecessor within its colossal dimensions. The main, monumental gateway system leading into the city through these fortifications was first discovered during Season Seven in 2012.
Within these sprawling defenses, the kings of the Tall el-Hammam city-state built their palaces, temples, and administrative complexes. Beginning literally at the flanks of Hammam-proper and radiating out to a distance of up to 5km, numerous Bronze Age towns, villages, and hamlets dotted a fertile and well-watered agriscape. Tall el-Hammam itself hugged the southern edge of the perennial flow of the Wadi Kafrein at the eastern edge of the Jordan Disk (Kikkar), with the Wadi Hisban/Ar-Rawda a few hundred meters to the south. The core population of the city-state, at Tall el-Hammam, also enjoyed at least two springs located inside the city walls (one warm, one sweet), with several others in the immediate vicinity. It’s quite evident that the utilization of water resources was a principal consideration in the placement and development of the city.
Each of Hammam’s satellites (Tall Iktanu, Tall Azeimah N., Tall Azeimah S., Tall Mwais, Tall Rama, Tall Kufrayn, Tall Barakat, Tall Tahouna, and myriad un-named villaged and hamlets strewn between them) was similarly situated at a major water source (generally Wadi Kafrein or Wadi Ar-Rawda and their tributaries). In antiquity, during each spring flood season, the Jordan River overflowed its banks north of its mouth (at the Dead Sea’s northern end), providing a wide-spreading inundation not unlike what occured in the Nile Delta during its annual inundation (of course, on a smaller scale, but hydrologically identical). Local farmers from the Hammam city-state no doubt took advantage of the annual Jordan flood cycle, planting crops behind the receeding waters in the fresh alluvial silt deposits. With so many reliable sources of water, not to mention localized winter rains, the kingdom flourished with up to three harvests each year in its below-sea-level, sub-tropical environment. Thus, it isn’t at all surprising that the flourishing Bronze Age civilization on the eastern Jordan Disk, dominated by Tall el-Hammam, served as the foundation of the “Cities of the well-watered Disk (kikkar) of the Jordan” tradition in the book of Genesis (10-19).
Given its apparently long and stable history as the region’s dominant city-state (even flourishing through the catastrophic climatological changes that brought an end to the Levantine Early Bronze Age, ca. 2500 BC), it’s remarkable that Tall el-Hammam and its neighbors (noteably Tall Nimrin, likely center of the city-state to Hammam’s immediate north) suffered a civilization-ending calamity, uniquely their own, toward the end of the Middle Bronze Age. While cities to the west (Jerusalem, Bethel, Hebron), north (Deir ‘Alla, Pella, Beth Shan), and east (Rabbath-Ammon, Tall al-Umayri, Nebo) continued in the Late Bronze Age, the cities, towns, and villages of the eastern Jordan Disk did not. In fact, from the time of their destruction toward the end of MB2, the eastern Jordan Disk sites remained unoccupied for the next five-to-seven hundred years. The phenomenon resulting in the destruction of MBA civilization on “the well watered plain (= kikkar, disk) of the Jordan” and repelling re-occupation for so many centuries is now coming to light through analyses performed by ‘impact’ researchers from seven participating universities (multiple publications pending). That the most productive agricultural land in the region, which had supported flourishing civilizations continuously for at least 3,000 years, should suddenly relinquish, then resist human habitation for such a long period of time has begged investigation.
Unearth Biblical History as a Volunteer
Participate in Season Sixteen (January 24 – March 4, 2021) by following these three easy steps: (1) pay your participant fee at www.shoptsu-edu.us, or contact Glenda Austin in the TSU administrative office ([email protected]) or by phone at 505.332.4253, and fill out the application provided by Glenda; (2) you’ll take care of your own air/travel arrangements in coordination with Season Sixteen requirements (below) and instructions from Glenda and; (3) you’ll pay half of your hotel bill when you check in, and the balance when you check out at the end of your dig experience. Please be aware that you cannot book into the TeHEP headquarters hotel by any other means. This must be done through Glenda in the TSU Administrative Office. TeHEP team members must stay at our headquarter hotel (we cannot make exceptions).
These are the requirements for individuals who wish to participate:
1. Due to more stringent Department of Antiquities policies now in effect, the deadline for the 2020 participation fee and all volunteer forms is August 31, 2019. Additionally, any cancellation will incur a $250 processing fee deducted from the participation fee.
For each dig week there are 38 volunteer slots available. These slots will be filled on a first-come-first-served basis. When you sign up (by paying the participation fee) you must choose your dig week(s) within 48 hours by contacting Dr Glenda Austin by phone (505.332.4253) or by email ([email protected]). If you fail to do this your name will automatically be moved to the end of the list. You must also have your dig paperwork and security form in the TSU office within 30 days of paying the participation fee. If you fail to do this your name will be moved to the end of the list.
So, you must do three things to be a volunteer in Season Sixteen: first, pay your participation fee; second, declare your dig weeks within 48 hours; third, have your paperwork and security form on Dr Austin’s desk within 30 days.
When the number of volunteers reaches 22 for a given week, that week will be closed and no additional participants will be accepted for that week.
PLEASE NOTE: If you plan to participate for multiple weeks or the entire 5-week season, early sign-up is a must. For example, if Week 3 fills up quickly before you register (which it tends to do), then the most you will be able to do are the two weeks before or after Week 3.
*Student: any undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral student actively enrolled in an educational program directly related to or involving archaeology.
2. You must be in reasonably good physical condition. This is for your own protection. Working on an archaeological excavation can be physically demanding. While we always try to match dig responsibilities to the physical abilities of individuals, there is always considerable walking over rough terrain. You don’t have to be “young” to enjoy the dig experience of a lifetime. But you must be able to handle the work and the difficult landscape.
3. You must be a team player. People with their own agendas, or who are inclined to “do their own thing” to the exclusion of others, are usually more trouble than they’re worth to the Project. We need people who are courteous, helpful, thoughtful of others, and conscientious about being at the right place at the time with the right stuff.
4. You must carry your own travel and medical insurance. Many credit cards offer travel medical insurance plans that are comprehensive and inexpensive. There are medical facilities throughout Amman, the location of our headquarters, but you must have your own insurance should a medical problem arise.
5. 100% of cancellation fees are generally covered by travel insurance programs provided the premium has been paid and the reason for cancellation is insurable. Those who do not take out travel insurance should be aware of the following cancellation penalties for the down payment: from the time of registration a $250 non-refundable administration fee applies. Thereafter, the following refunds apply beyond the administration fee: 120 days or more prior to the excavation start date 75% of the down payment balance is refundable; from 60-119 days prior to the excavation start date 50% of the down payment balance is refundable. There is no refund for cancellations 0-59 days prior to the excavation start date (January 24, 2021). Please submit your cancellation in writing.
For VSA program inquiries, contact the archaeology administrator, Jeannine Bulot