The Neolithic of the Holy Land: Excavations at the Neolithic site of Sha’ar Hagolan 2023 (Balkan Heritage Field School)

Location: Kibbutz Sha'ar HaGolan, Israel

Season: June 1, 2023 to June 23, 2023

Session Dates: 1 - 23 June 2023

Application Deadline: May 1, 2023

Deadline Type: Rolling


Discount for AIA members: 5% discount off the regular admission fee

Program Type:
Field School

RPA Certified:

Balkan Heritage Field School; UMIFRE 7 French Research Centre in Jerusalem (CNRS); Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA); and UMR 8068 TEMPS Laboratory (CNRS)

Project Director:
Dr Julien Vieugué - Permanent researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). Field archaeologist - Specialist of the Early Pottery Neolithic period in the Southern Levant; Anna Eirikh-Rose - Permanent researcher at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) Field archaeologist - Specialist of the Early Pottery Neolithic period in the Southern Levant; Dr Kamen Boyadzhiev - Permanent Researcher at the National Archaeological Institute with Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Science. Archaeologist and specialist in Late Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods in the Balkans.

Project Description:

The Site and the Excavation Project

Sha’ar Hagolan is a major stratified site dated to the 7th-millennium cal. BCE, located in the Jordan Valley. It extends over 20 hectares, making it one of the largest Neolithic villages in the Near East. Between 1989 and 2004, Yosef Garfinkel (Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) carried out a 3000 sq. m excavation aiming to explore the last Neolithic occupation phases of the village (6200-5900 cal. BCE). This large-scale excavation revealed the existence of real living quarters separated by streets, upsetting our knowledge regarding the social organization of the Yarmukian communities at the end of the 7th-millennium cal. BCE. It provided an impressive amount of Neolithic artifacts including 1 000 000 lithic pieces, 90 000 potsherds, 50 000 animal bones and more than 300 clay figurines, shedding new light on the economic and symbolic worlds of the society.

The current excavation project concerns the early occupation phases of the Neolithic village (6700-6200 cal. BCE). It aims to better understand the full development of the Neolithic way of life in the Near East (the so-called “Second Neolithic Revolution”), by questioning the human processes underlying the various economic (emergence of pottery, development of pastoralism), social (emergence of urban concept) and symbolic (scarcity of human burials, explosion of anthropomorphic figurines) changes that occurred during the 7thmillennium cal. BC. In other words, why did the Levantine populations make all these changes? When and How did it take place? To answer these historical questions, a meticulous excavation of the PPN-PN transitional layers following the palaethnographic approach elaborated by André Leroi-Gourhan will be undertaken. It will consist of carefully clearing out the successive Neolithic occupation floors by following the slope of the archaeological layers identified on the basis of sedimentary differences and/or concentrations of prehistoric artifacts.

The Field School

The NEOLITHIC OF THE HOLY LAND Field School project will start in 2023. The first season will aim to expose the latest occupation layers of the Pottery Neolithic period at Sha’ar Hagolan (Late Yarmukian) which are characterized by stone-wall terraced houses according to Yosef Garfinkel’s previous excavation.

Period(s) of Occupation: Neolithic; Late Pre-Pottery and Early Pottery

Archaeology of the Neolithic period in the Near East; Excavation of the Neolithic settlement in Sha’ar Hagolan; Archaeological field techniques and methods for excavation and documentation; Processing of finds and samples; Excursions to significant heritage sites in Israel.

Project Size: 1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Three weeks

Minimum Age: 18

Experience Required: No previous experience is required. Special requirements: A medical COVID-19 vaccination certificate might be requested from each participant. The participants should have medical insurance including COVID-19 treatment and repatriation. The participants should inform the project staff about any health issues, allergies, and food preferences.

Room and Board Arrangements:
Accommodation: Comfortable rooms at the guesthouse at Shaar Hagolan kibbutz with three beds, bathrooms with shower and WC, TV, A/C and free Wi-Fi. Rooms for two and single rooms are available for additional charges. Meals: The participants will be provided with three meals. Breakfast at the site, lunch at the kibbutz dining room, and diner at the guesthouse. In addition, there will be coffee/tea and cookies at the guesthouse and a fruit break at the site.

Academic Credit:
New Bulgarian University grants 9 ECTS credits for attending the three-week session. Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional fee paid to the university.

Contact Information:

Balkan Heritage Field School

7 Tulovo St., Floor 5, Apt.7


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