The Religion Department Goes Digging
by Sue Kropp '99
Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, viewed here from the southwest
side of the city, was built on the platform of the ancient Jewish
temple that was destroyed by the Romans during the Jewish Wars.
The site was left in ruins until the seventh century, when Muslims
built the Dome to honor the prophet Mohammed.
photo: RELIGION DEPARTMENT
religion department observed its 50th anniversary this year, and
in preparation for the big event, Danforth Professor of Religion
Grover Zinn dug deep into the department's past.
he unearthed was a collection owned by the department of more than
300 glass lantern slides - images of the archaeological dig at Megiddo,
Israel, as well as photographs of the surrounding area - some of
which are shown here.
images of Megiddo were taken by Herbert G. May, who taught Old Testament
language and literature at the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology
(GST) from 1934 to 1966. In 1966 the GST was transferred to Vanderbilt
University, and May held a joint professorship at both institutions
until his retirement in 1970.
of the Old Testament portion of the Revised Standard Version of
the Bible, May participated as a graduate fellow in the University
of Chicago's archaeological expedition to Megiddo in the 1930s.
The walled city was located on the plain where the ancient Jewish
people believed the final apocalyptic battle would be fought at
the end of the world.
May's slides - along with the talents of Joseph Romano, the College's
visual resources curator, and Ed Vermue, special collections librarian
- Zinn created an exhibition in Mudd Center that chronicled the
department's connection to the Megiddo excavation, its expedition
to Tell el Hesi, and Near Eastern archaeology in general. During
the 1970s and 1980s, more than 50 Oberlin students volunteered at
Tell el Hesi under the direction of the late religion professor
Tom Frank. Oberlin is the U.S. repository for the artifacts recovered
during the Hesi excavation.
aerial view from the 1930s of the Megiddo excavation, taken
from a balloon anchored above the site.
photo: Herbert G. May
display also included ancient pottery from Bab edh-Drah, a site
located on the southeast side of the Dead Sea. These items were
donated to the Religion Department Archaeological Collection as
a memorial to Paul Lapp, who delivered the Haskell Lectures at Oberlin
in 1967. Lapp excavated the Bab edh-Drah site in the 1960s and found
a city and a cemetery.
exhibition coincided with this year's Haskell Lecture Series, titled
Digging Up the Past: Oberlin and Biblical Archaeology. Three archaeologists,
including two alumni, were featured as speakers.
has a long history of biblical archaeology," Zinn said. "This
year we were able to celebrate that by recognizing the Hesi project,
which engaged many Oberlin students and which contributed significantly
to the teaching of biblical archaeology and literature in higher