Birsama Exploration Project

Location: Birsama, (Horbat Be’er Shema), Israel

Season: May 28, 2023 to June 23, 2023

Session Dates: May 28 - June 23, 2023

Application Deadline: April 15, 2023

Deadline Type: Rolling


Program Type:
Field School, Volunteer

RPA Certified:

Brandeis University, University of Haifa - Leon Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies

Project Director:
Dr. Alexandra Ratzlaff (Brandeis University)

Project Description:

The Birsama Exploration Project aims to investigate the late Roman fort and its environs at the site of Birsama (Horbat Be’er Shema’) in the northern Negev. Intimately tied to the Roman army and administration of the region, exploration of this site will provide key information regarding the development of the Roman army and its connection to the broader network across the Negev during the Late Roman – Byzantine periods. Survey and excavation are intended to clarify how the Roman army used the site as a strategic economic and administrative base, near the port at Gaza. As a known site of a regional dux, Birsama provides an opportunity to juxtapose the development and function of a provincial administrator with those known from the other provinces. In addition to elucidating new information about the built environment of the site – including detailed examination of the fort as an eastern example of a large quadriburgium, the possible vicus, road, and industrial complexes, research will focus on the material culture as it is related to the trade routes extending across the Negev and access to the broader Mediterranean through Gaza. Interest in the site extends beyond the fort to include the extramural settlement that evidence suggests developed into a thriving Byzantine community.

The aims of this project in the 2023 season focus on exploratory excavation of the fort and the potential administrative building northwest of the fort; and continued aerial and terrestrial survey of the western half of the site.

Period(s) of Occupation: Hellenistic, Nabataean, Roman, Byzantine

Field school participants will learn the basics of how to conduct archaeological field research. During the 2023 season, we will begin excavating and will continue to survey the site. Students will rotate between the excavation and survey teams, to learn about excavation techniques and methodologies and how to conduct a pedestrian survey. Students may also have the opportunity to participate in several post-excavation data processing activities, such as ceramic analysis, soil sample flotation, and the 3-D modeling of small finds using photogrammetry. Students will also receive lectures from project staff about the history of Birsama and the Levant, ongoing regional research, and specialized approaches within the field of archaeology.

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 4 weeks

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: No previous experience is required to participate as a student or volunteer on the project.

Room and Board Arrangements:
The project participants will be staying in a villa complex at the Kibbutz Gvulot. Accommodations include 2-3 participants to a room with a private bathroom with shower and WC, TV, A/C, and Wi-Fi. Common rooms have additional couches and kitchen facilities. Full lodging with three meals a day, on-site and at the Kibbutz is provided. Price includes weekends lodging and two field trips as well.

Academic Credit:
No academic credit given.

Contact Information:

Alexandra Ratzlaff

Brandeis University, Mandel Humanities Center, 415 South St.




United States

Phone: (781) 736-2180

support Us

The AIA is North America's largest and oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to archaeology. The Institute advances awareness, education, fieldwork, preservation, publication, and research of archaeological sites and cultural heritage throughout the world. Your contribution makes a difference.

Post a Fieldwork Opportunity