Collen Ngwarati (2010 Alumnus) is hitting several milestones this year. As one of the first graduate students in the Southern Africa program at the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University, he will be graduating with his Master of Arts in Christian Ministry on December 15. He is also completing a degree in Peace, Conflict, and Governance at Great Zimbabwe University.
He also had a unique opportunity to participate in an archaeological project in Israel this year. We asked Collen to tell us more about his experience in Israel last month at Tel Abel Beth Maacah. He sent us the
following . . .
Embarking on an archaeological excavation in Israel was a dream come true for me. For three weeks (1 July – 21 July 2023), I had the privilege of unearthing fragments of the past and immersing myself in the rich cultural heritage of this ancient land. The experience not only expanded my knowledge (never done archaeology before) but also provided valuable life lessons that will stay with me forever.
From the moment I arrived in Israel, the air was buzzing with anticipation. Our team of archaeologists and volunteers set out to uncover hidden stories buried beneath the soil. As we excavated various sites, each shovelful revealed fragments of pottery, coins, bones (both human and animal), and other artifacts, which served as silent witnesses to a history steeped in layers of civilizations.
I was at site B with a very friendly dig partner: Noa from New York, but studying at a university in Taiwan. We were a large group of about 80 all in all from across the world, and I am proud that I was the only one from Africa. I did my best to represent my continent and my schools, African Christian College and Abilene Christian University.
We would wake up every day at 0400hrs and go to the bus about 30 mins away from our hotel. I can still remember the scorching sun that would roast us all day until midday when we break into our airconditioned rooms and would go and swim by the nearby beautiful spring.
All the sweat and pain of the excavation process was, however, really nothing compared to the intriguing and exciting moments I cherished in this beautiful land of Israel and the loving people I met there. Though we came from different cultures and religious backgrounds, we were a great, happy, and very social family. I met great people there, and I made many good friends whom I am in touch with to this day and will forever remember my time in Israel.
Archeology is real work, and uncovering thousands of years old artifacts would give us the energy to dig deeper and scrutinize every piece and would unearth walls and a lot.
One of the first lessons I learned during the excavation was the importance of patience. Archaeology is not a field for those seeking instant gratification. Excavation requires meticulous attention to detail, slow progress, and countless hours of careful digging. It tested my patience, but through perseverance, I discovered the beauty of embracing the journey, even if it means taking small steps toward a larger goal.
Archaeological excavations are never a one-person endeavor. The cooperative nature of the project taught me the significance of collaboration and unity. Working side by side with people from diverse backgrounds, I learned to appreciate the value of teamwork and the strength that lies within collective efforts. Together, we excavated shared knowledge, and celebrated breakthroughs, fostering a sense of camaraderie that made every day meaningful and enjoyable.
Beyond the excavation site, being in Israel for the first time exposed me to a wealth of cultural experiences. Exploring historical sites like the Dolorosa, the Western Wall, and the Old City of Jerusalem allowed me to witness the intermingling of traditions, faiths, and vibrant communities. Engaging with locals and hearing their stories further enriched my understanding of Israel’s complex tapestry of cultures, religions, and traditions.
I felt like I was walking in the Bible, and I am looking to walk more chapters and verses next year, lol. Though it was a hard time for me to get the Visa from the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, I thank God Almighty, who made it possible in the end.
The scorching heat and physically demanding conditions of the excavation site presented challenges that tested my resilience and adaptability. Yet, it was in those moments of discomfort that I discovered my inner strength. Pushing through fatigue and adapting to the environment taught me the importance of perseverance, resilience, and mental fortitude to overcome obstacles in both personal and professional spheres.
As an aspiring archaeologist, my time in Israel reinforced my appreciation for history and the
preservation of our past. The tangible connection I felt to those who came before us deepened my understanding of our shared humanity across time and cultures. It reminded me that every artifact, no matter how small, holds a unique story waiting to be told.
My archaeological excavation experience in Israel was a transformative journey that encompassed far more than just the physical act of digging. It taught me the value of patience, perseverance, collaboration, cultural immersion, resilience, and a deeper appreciation for our shared history. This unforgettable adventure awakened a passion within me, fueling my dedication to the field of archaeology and its ability to unlock the mysteries of the past.