Excavations at Sha`ar Hagolan - Basic information to volunteers

Cost of Room & Board Academic Credit Location Research Aims The daily schedule
Volunteer Assignment Field Training Accommodation Food Physical Condition/Medical Advice
Field Communications Field Supplies Sha‘ar Hagolan Souvenirs How to Contact Us!  

The project is conducted on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The 2004 season will last for 6 weeks,  from 4th  July  to the 13th of August 2004.

Cost of Room & Board

(including free stay at Kibbutz Sha‘ar Hagolan during weekends)

Registration: $50

Cost $225 per week,   $1250 full season (7 days a week)

Registration fees should be sent directly to Dr. Yosef Garfinkel, Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem  91905, Israel (a check made out to: Israel Exploration Society. Payment for room and board will be made on arrival directly to the kibbutz guesthouse.

Academic Credit

Academic credit is provided by the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: 3 undergraduate credits for three weeks and 6 undergraduate credits for six weeks. Assessment will be by examination. Students desiring graduate credits will complete all academic requirements of the undergraduate credits and in addition write a 10-15 page research paper. The cost per academic credit is $100, i.e. $300 for three credits or $600 for six credits, to be paid directly to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
A registration fee for credits will be 50$


Sha‘ar Hagolan is located 1 mile south of the Sea of Galilee in the Jordan Valley, within the internationally recognized borders of Israel established in 1948, and far from the current unrest in the area. The closest town is the historical and tourist resort of Tiberias. The site is located near the meeting point between three modern states: Israel, Jordan and Syria. Nevertheless, this is a quiet and peaceful area and we have had no security problems since we started digging in 1989. Sha‘ar Hagolan is also the name of the nearby kibbutz. This is an agricultural community with a socialist ideology. We eat in their dining room and use their swimming pool and other facilities.

The temperature is high, up to 34-37 centigrade, but we work in the shade under awnings and maintain a constant supply of fresh cool water. The altitude is 200 meters below sea level. During the eight excavation seasons (1989-90, 1996-2001) some 400 people took part in the project and survived the ordeal in good health. We work five days a week, and volunteers can stay and rest in the kibbutz during the weekend without extra payment.

The location is beautiful, with the Jordan Valley and the mountains of Galilee to the west, and the mountains of the Golan and Gilead to the east. Many Christian sites around the nearby Sea of Galilee are associated with Jesus’ activities in Galilee.

Individual volunteers can use the Israeli public transportation system. Buses run from the airport to the central bus station in Tel-Aviv, and from Tel Aviv to Tiberias. Transportation from Tiberias to Kibbutz Sha‘ar Hagolan is by local taxi.

Research Aims

1. The rich assemblage of art objects unearthed at Sha‘ar Hagolan clearly indicates that it is the best candidate for the study of the function and use of art objects in the Neolithic period. Our emphasis is on the context of discovery, that is the location of the artifacts in the site (houses, rooms, courtyard, graves, etc.). We carry out detailed recording, and 100% of the excavated sediment is sieved.

2. We study simultaneously other aspects of the material culture, such as pottery, flint, and stone tools.

3. The study of exotic artifacts, such as sea shells, alabaster stone vessels and Anatolian obsidian, indicate a long-distance exchange network, connecting remote areas in the ancient Near East and indicating possible foreign influences.

4. We collect all the animal bones and employ flotation to collect botanical remains and seeds. These finds help to reconstruct the economy of this ancient agricultural community.

5. Study of the spatial distribution of the art objects indicates whether they were used in individual households or at the community level.

The daily schedule:

4.45 Wake-up
5.00 Departure for the site, usually on foot (10 minutes from the kibbutz)
7.00-7.15 Coffee/tea and biscuits break
9.00-9.30 Breakfast, at the site
11.00-11.15 Watermelon break
13.00 Departure for the guesthouse (by car)
13.15 Lunch, at the kibbutz dinning hall
14.00-16.30 Rest (siesta, swimming pool)
16.30-18.00 Laboratory work (washing, sorting and marking the excavated objects)
19.00 Dinner, at the kibbutz dinning hall
20.00 Lecture on archaeology by a staff member (three times a week)

We excavate five days a week, from Monday to Friday. The excavations are carried out under sun shades. On Fridays we excavate only until 11.00. After this there is a guided tour of the various excavated areas for volunteers and staff, reviewing the week’s progress. We are back at the kibbutz by 12.00. There is no work on Friday afternoon. Saturdays and Sundays are free days, and the volunteers can stay at the kibbutz without extra payment or use this time to travel in the area or around Israel.

Volunteer Assignments

We do not employ paid workers at Sha‘ar Hagolan, so our expedition, except for 15 archaeologists, is based solely on volunteers. The staff and volunteers work together at the same tasks, covering all the excavation’s activities:

1. Digging. Each excavated unit (5 x 5 m.) has a team of one archaeologist and 2-4 volunteers. They stay together all the time, creating a sense of belonging to the team.
2. Sieving. All the excavated sediments are sieved in a 2 mm. mesh to retrieve small artifacts such as beads. Each person sieves the earth he or she has excavated.
3. Washing and cleaning of objects.
4. Sorting and recording the objects.
5. Participation in an experimental pottery/mudbrick workshop.
6. Lecture on archaeology three times a week.

Digging, sieving and the experimental workshop are done in the field, from 5.00 to 13.00. Washing and sorting of the material is done in camp from 16.30 to 18.00. Lectures are given in the evenings after 20.00. A guided tour of the site, reviewing the various excavation areas, is given on Fridays.

Previous experience in archaeology is not required, since the archaeologist in each working unit explains to the volunteers what needs to be done. In our experience, volunteers acquire the basic skills after a day or two.

Field Training

The following topics are covered in the dig:

1. Introduction to archaeology.
2. Excavations and recording methods.
3. Ancient technologies: pottery production.
4. Ancient technologies: flint knapping (including experiments).
5. Mudbrick building techniques.
6. Beginnings of agriculture.
7. Prehistoric art and cult.
8. Neolithic way of life.


The local kibbutz guesthouse provides the accommodation. We stay in air-conditioned rooms, four persons to a room, with standard beds. The guesthouse provides sheets, blankets and pillows but not towels. In each building there are running water, electricity, hot showers (24 hours a day), conventional sanitation, a small kitchen with a refrigerator (for personal provisions) and coffee/tea facilities. Free laundry is provided once a week. The accommodation is 10 minutes walk from the archaeological site. The kibbutz has an Olympic size swimming pool, which we can use free of charge during opening hours when a lifeguard is present.


Food is supplied by the kibbutz kitchen, which caters for the local community (about 400 people) and the guesthouse. The food is varied and offers a wide choice, with an abundance of fresh and cooked vegetables.

In the field we have three food breaks: coffee/tea and biscuits at 7.00, a full breakfast at 9.00 and watermelon at 11.00. There is a constant supply of fresh cool water. Breakfast includes fresh vegetables, olives, milk products (milk, butter, soft and hard cheeses), tuna fish, eggs, bread, cereals, jam and honey.

Lunch is the main meal of the day. It includes a main dish (usually a choice of chicken, beef or fish), a variety of five to ten different salads, cooked vegetables, soup, bread and soft drinks. There is a selection of vegetarian dishes as well.

Dinner includes fresh vegetables, Mediterranean salads (humus, tahina, eggplant), corn, and fresh fruit. Sometimes, if there is another group in the guesthouse, meat is served at dinner.

In addition, the guesthouse has a small shop that sells beer, wine, ice cream and sweets. The kibbutz supermarket, which has a full range of basic products (food, toiletries, etc.), is also open to the dig volunteers.

Physical Condition/Medical Advice

Archaeology in the hot climate of the Jordan valley is hard work that requires healthy and highly motivated people. The work is not suitable for handicapped people. It requires lifting buckets weighing up to 20 kilos and carrying them some 20-30 meters to the sieving areas. The temperature in the area is 34-37 centigrade at midday. Dehydration is the biggest hazard in this climate and an adequate liquid intake is essential. Participants are asked to drink at least two cups an hour.

There are a local medical service and an ambulance in the kibbutz. The nearest full facility hospital is in Tiberias, some 10 miles away. Volunteers are required to arrange their own medical and accident insurance, and to provide documentation of this.

Field Communications

The Sha‘ar Hagolan guesthouse has a telephone (972-4-6677544) and a fax (972-4-6677545). It takes about one week for international airmail to arrive.

Field Supplies

Volunteers should bring clothing suitable for the hot climate, including light cotton clothes and hats, and sun protection cream. Shoes (not sandals) are required during field work. The guesthouse supplies all bedclothes, but volunteers should bring towels. A local supermarket sells all other basic needs.

Sha‘ar Hagolan Souvenirs
1. Every year an excavation T-shirt is produced, in various colors. The price is $5.
2. A beautiful color catalogue published by the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem in 1999 for the exhibit “The Yarmukians, Neolithic Art from Sha‘ar Hagolan” is available to excavation volunteers at a special reduced price of $20 (instead of $30).
3. Postcards of selected Neolithic art objects from the collections of the local museum at Kibbutz Sha‘ar Hagolan. There are 10 different postcards, each costing $0.50.
4. A videocassette on the site and the excavation, 15 minutes in length, produced by the local museum and costing $12.

Thank you for showing an interest.

I want to volunteer - take me to the VOLUNTEERS APPLICATION FORM

Any questions? Contact us!

Dr. Yosef Garfinkel
Institute of Archaeology
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
91905 Jerusalem

E-mail: garfinkel@h2.hum.huji.ac.il

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 This page was last updated: 12/01/04

Produced by: Nachum Applbaum, Institute of Archaeology Hebrew University, Jerusalem Israel