Robert Mullins, Ph.D., associate professor of biblical studies at Azusa Pacific University, is foregoing classroom lectures and textbooks this May to embark on the adventure of a lifetime in Israel. Much like the storyline of an Indiana Jones movie, Mullins hopes to unlock secrets of ancient civilizations buried for thousands of years beneath a mound of earth known as Abel Beth Maacah.

The 40-acre site located at the north end of the Huleh Valley was once a major trade route linking Egypt and Mesopotamia. According to Mullins, it is one of the few remaining biblical sites in Israel specifically mentioned in the Bible that has not yet been excavated. Due to Abel Beth Maccah’s proximity to Lebanon, Mullins secured permission from the Israeli Army to obtain a dig license.

“I can’t overstate the huge potential of this project,” said Mullins. “Given the site’s connection with the period of David and later kings of Israel, the dig will draw worldwide interest. We can potentially solve questions regarding the nature of Israel’s ties with neighboring Phoenicia and Syria, as well as documenting through the destruction levels the various Aramean and Assyrian military campaigns mentioned in the Bible and other ancient records.”

Mullins who lived in Israel for 20 years, partnered with his alma mater Hebrew University on this monumental project. A team of 15 renowned Israeli archeologists and archeology students from Azusa Pacific and Hebrew University will survey a portion of the site May 22-24, 2012. Mullins anticipates that the survey will produce enough clues to the past to map out promising areas for a much larger excavation scheduled for May-June 2013.

“This initial excavation and surface collection will uncover identifiable pieces of pottery and other artifacts that will give us clues as to what lies below,” Mullins said. “We may even see the top of a structure. I have a hunch there is a very large citadel at the northern end of the site. We might discover a siege ramp built by the Assyrians, which would provide proof that the city was captured by Assyrians in 733 BC as referenced in the Bible.”

Azusa Pacific is one of the few Christian universities to ever secure an excavation site in Israel. An APU delegation arrives in Israel on May 27 to visit the site. Plans are underway to bring 20-30 APU students to next summer’s excavation.

“This project enhances APU’s profile throughout the Middle East and the world,” Mullins said. “Our students working on this dig will benefit from a partnership with the students and faculty at the Hebrew University. While immersed in the region’s history and culture, they will work to uncover hidden secrets that provide a better picture of what life was like in Old Testament times.”

Mullins said that supervising the excavation of Abel Beth Maccah is the most exciting opportunity of his 40-year career in archeology. Like Indiana Jones, Mullins hope his quest ends with an amazing find.

“I feel like a kid at Christmas,” he reflected. “The site is a giant present, and I won’t know what’s inside until I open it. I must be patient and enjoy all the small discoveries along the way. In the end, we may just discover something major.”

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