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Chelsea Mak

Emory University

The Israel H. Steinberg Memorial Scholarship

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As an emergent scholar of Hebrew Bible and Israelite Religions, whose particular interests are in religious practices at the intersection of ecology and economy, I was extremely grateful to receive the Israel H. Steinberg Memory Fellowship to participate in the 2023 excavation at Tel Moẓa. The significance of the site for the study of ancient Israel and Judah cannot be overstated—but was nearly matched by my personal excitement at being present in spaces marked sacred by the prayers and practices of those I’ve contemplated through history textbooks over the course of my education.


During my time in the field, I was able to work in two different areas. I was first assigned to a previously unexcavated square—“the pit”—which was located south of both the small and large temple buildings. It was hoped that this area would reveal additional cultic space within the purview of the small temple courtyard. However, this season was spent in long hours digging through a Persian period pit in order to reach the Iron Age, which we finally arrived at three days before excavation ended. Due to time limitations, it was determined that further exploration of the area would wait until next season, and I was relocated to the small temple itself. Within the walls of the temple, several vessels—one of which was whole and intact—were discovered on the floor, preserved under a layer of ash. In contrast to my first square, which afforded me the opportunity to dig a previously unexcavated area using primarily large tools, my square in the small temple allowed me to experience the delicate work of micro-archaeology. Most thrillingly, I was given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to lift two of these vessels from the floor of the small temple, where they had been sitting for approximately 3000 years.


In addition to these invaluable field experiences, I was also invited to work closely with project manager, Roni Sapir, in record keeping and data entry. This allowed me to learn about top plans and data-management software. Lastly, I attended several educational lectures offered to the team and participated in workshops on pottery reading and experimental archaeology led by experts in their respective fields. While my time in the field was undoubtedly the most exciting and enriching part of my experience at Tel Moẓa, these additional experiences will also be invaluable to my own research. Altogether, my time at Tel Moẓa afforded me a rich learning environment and I cannot adequately express my gratitude to the Steinberg family and their generous donation, without which my trip to Tel Moẓa would not have been possible. Thank you.

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