Mt. Zion

Excavate Historic Jerusalem

Have you ever dreamed of excavating within sight of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, just minutes away from more than 3,000 years of fabled history and lore? If so, you might want to volunteer to work on the new Mount Zion excavations in Jerusalem, taking place just outside the Ottoman-era walls of the Old City.

Biblical Archaeology: From the Ground Down

How does a dig team work? What do archaeologists look for at a dig? In this documentary DVD, learn how excavators work and what we can learn from archaeology. More information.

Two thousand years ago, the area of the Mount Zion excavations was well within the city walls of Jerusalem and bustling with activity. The area was situated at the end of the city’s great main street, the cardo maximus, and recent excavations here have revealed the incredibly well preserved houses of some of Jerusalem’s wealthiest families of the first century C.E. Fortunately for archaeologists, the construction of the massive Nea Church during the Byzantine period required much of the Mount Zion area to be artificially raised and leveled, meaning that many of these first century houses were safely preserved beneath construction fill.
This summer, you can help dig directors Shimon Gibson and James Tabor uncover the remains of these Roman-era houses, many with their painted walls and high vaulted ceilings still intact. In addition, excavate what appears to be a Byzantine period building along with a new area with early Islamic levels in the western portion of the site.
Shimon Gibson/James D. Tabor

Shimon Gibson

British archaeologist Shimon Gibson is the co-director of the Mt. Zion dig. He is a Fellow at the Albright Institute of Archaeology, director of archaeology at the University of the Holy Land, and an adjunct Professor at UNC Charlotte. Dr. Gibson has excavated dozens of sites in Israel and Palestine including the “John the Baptist” cave at Suba, Tell el-Ful as well as Mt Zion. His latest book is The Final Days of Jesus: The Archaeological Evidence (HarperOne, 2009).

James D. Tabor

James D. Tabor is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he has taught since 1989. He is a historian of ancient Judaism and earliest Christianity. He has excavated at Sepphoris, Suba, and Mt Zion. His most recent books are The Jesus Discovery, with co-author Simcha Jacobovici (Simon & Schuster 2012) on the Talpiot “Jesus” tombs, and Paul and Jesus: How the Apostles Transformed Christianity (Simon & Schuster, 2012).

Rafi Lewis

Rafi Lewis, University of Haifa (Post-Doc)

Robert McEachnie

Robert McEachnie, Department of History, UNC Charlotte

Dig Directors

Shimon Gibson
James Tabor
Rafi Lewis
Robert McEachnie

Geographic Location

Central Jerusalem/Old City

Periods of Occupation

Early Roman to Ottoman

Dates of the Dig

June 16 – 28, 2017 (1st two-week session);
July 1 – 5, 2018 (interim week of lectures and touring);
July 7 - 19, 2018 (2nd two-week session)

Minimum Stay

Two weeks

Application Due

May 1, 2018


New volunteers: $500 dig fee per two week session; returning participants $400 per two week session; those staying three or four weeks pay $200 per week dig fee; interim week no dig fee (tours at cost; lectures free)

Academic Credit/Cost per Credit/Institution

6 hours, undergraduate or graduate, to UNC Charlotte students or those at an accredited US university or college only. Most come as non-credit participants. Tuition is included as part of the study abroad program costs for UNC Charlotte Study Abroad. Credits awarded by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Contact Dr. McEachnie for general information on the study abroad credit option:


Participants are encouraged to stay at the Knight’s Palace in the Old City of Jerusalem where we get special group rates. Booking is the responsibility of each party, however registrants will be instructed as to how to use our booking code for our reduced “dig rates.” Singles, doubles, and triples are available. Contact once application is approved.


Dr. Robert McEachnie
Dept. of History, UNC Charlotte
Charlotte, NC 28223
Phone: 704-678-5188

Open for tours

Yes - by appointment