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Organization offering trips to excavate ancient Roman fortress in Israel

Organization offering trips to excavate ancient Roman fortress in Israel

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Only $3 for 13 weeks

One of the greatest archaeological discoveries about Rome's 1st-century occupation of Israel could be made by you.

A College Station-based nonprofit is offering summer trips for donors who want to help excavate the Roman fortress of the Sixth Ironclad Legion near Tel Megiddo, Israel.

The site, dubbed Legio, is a hotbed of archaeological activity after researchers from Texas A&M and the Jezreel Valley Regional Project unveiled their findings in the July issue of Archaeological Prospection.

The heritage tours, offered by The Center for Research and Archaeology of the Sourthern Lavent, are two-week forays into the practice of archaeology in Israel. The trip combines digging for artifacts with educational tours of the region for about $2,500 plus airfare, said Michael Pincus, CRASL's director.

"A lot of folks over the years have come to Israel in the summertime to participate in excavations -- literally two or three thousand come every year from all over the world," said Pincus.

CRASL was founded as a way for Pincus and his wife, Kathy, to support their daughter's research.

Jessie Pincus, a former research fellow at Texas A&M, is the project director for CRASL and one of the researchers who helped discover the Roman fortress. Her company, Mnemotrix Israel, Ltd., was instrumental in helping find the location of the Roman fortress, which is about a half-hour from Nazareth, where a new Texas A&M branch campus has been proposed.

This summer, CRASL's visitors will join researchers in the second phase of the excavation at Legio.

Almost anyone can learn to be an archaeologist, including children, according to the Pincuses. Michael said children are sometimes better than their parents because they have a lighter touch.

Volunteers and researchers will be searching for the entrance gate to the Roman fortress, which was found during surveys performed by Pincus last summer.

The 32-year-old archaeologist used ground-penetrating radar to perform a near-surface scan of the site. CRASL paid for Texas A&M doctoral student Tim de Smet to travel abroad and perform an electromagnetic survey of the site. Pincus said the data recovered from initial scans found plenty of evidence of the fortress's location, which was confirmed later that summer when digging began.

Researchers from the Jezreel Valley Regional Project uncovered segments of the main road, metal ingots, coins and pieces of armor. The definitive proof that this fortress belonged to the Six Ironclad Legion was ceramic roof tiles bearing the mark of the Legio VI Ferrata, a bull.

"Based on its size from the archaeogeophysical and archaeological data, we know it is the only military headquarters of this type to be excavated from the tumultuous period that saw the origins of Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism," Jessie Pincus wrote in an email.

Pincus made the discovery using archaeogeophysics, a technique she learned during her post-doctoral fellowship at Texas A&M from 2008 to 2010.

After her fellowship, Pincus returned to Israel where she created her company. Mnemotrix Israel conducts archaeogeophysical surveys at sites around the Jewish state.

Mark Everett, a Texas A&M professor and expert in near-surface geophysics, lauded Pincus and her work on the Roman fortress.

"I like what Jessie [Pincus] is doing ... she is definitely a pioneer in bringing the advanced geophysical technology into classical archaeology," Everett wrote in an email.

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