Documentary tells story of Yodefat dig

The compelling account of the University's historic excavations in Yodefat, Israel, will be told in a one-hour documentary produced by Rochester's public television station at 9 p.m., Thursday, June 11, on WXXI-TV.

Echoes From the Ancients reveals the story of the significant discoveries made at the site of the first-century city. Yodefat was overrun by Roman soldiers during the First Jewish Revolt and, unlike other towns such as Nazareth, never rebuilt. Without the overlay of later settlements, the extraordinary findings at Yodefat reveal exactly what life was like in Galilee 2,000 years ago.

"Yodefat has offered a rare opportunity to step back into the time of the historical Jesus," said William Scott Green, dean of the College and educational director at Yodefat. "It is a snapshot of the ancient world that offers new perspectives on the religious life of first-century Galilee."

The University and the Israel Antiquities Authority began their archaeological collaboration at Yodefat in 1992. Over the years the dig has provided "hands on" field experience and workshops for several hundred volunteers from the University and the community. Using auto-cad computer imaging to get a clear view of the site inside and out, the excavation yielded the first door key ever discovered in northern Israel, a ritual bath called a "mikvah," pottery, jewelry, coins, arrowheads, and even nails from the boots of Roman soldiers.

Ironically, Yodefat surrendered its most remarkable secrets last summer, the final season of the dig: a stunning fresco that pointed to the existence of an upper class in what was previously thought a poor agrarian community; and human remains inside a house.

Five production people from WXXI-TV traveled to Yodefat in July 1996 for almost five weeks of filming. They taped excavation activities, interviews with dig participants and officials, and background footage at several locales. The crew also had access to workshops, artifacts, still photographs, and computer images. They returned to Israel last December to capture the latest finds at the site and update the documentary, and to get a closer look at the restoration work on one of the frescoes.

Footage was incorporated with auto-cad data to create three-dimensional animations of Yodefat. The virtual-reality model of the city was built by digital artists at Bergmann Associates. The animation will provide aerial perspectives of the walled city, as well as detailed interiors of dwellings showing, for example, how an oil lamp-illuminated mikvah would have looked.

Echoes From the Ancients is narrated by actress Anne Bancroft. Its broadcast will be followed by The Making of Echoes From the Ancients, at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

This summer, the University and the Israel Antiquities Authority will sponsor excavations in Bar'am near the Israel-Lebanon border. Bar'am is the site of one of the most important and well-preserved ancient synagogues in Galilee. Its stunning facade faces south toward Jerusalem and is virtually undamaged.

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