Harvard Summer Program in Ashkelon, Israel

An archaeological excavation of an ancient Mediterranean seaport

Faculty: Adam J. Aja and Lawrence E. Stager

Work alongside volunteers and a professional archaeological staff of 20 to excavate Ashkelon, one of the most important ancient seaports in Israel and in the eastern Mediterranean. In 2015, we will continue to uncover Ashkelon’s history from the Bronze Age through the Crusades.

Our field training focuses on methods of stratigraphic excavation, recording, and interpretation, and the study of ceramic typology and its applications. Staff specialists hold workshops on surveying, photography, ceramics, geology, faunal analysis, GIS analysis, and conservation of artifacts. Fieldwork is complemented by a series of lectures by staff and visiting or guest scholars.

You can see the artifacts that past students collected while studying abroad in Ashkelon.

Course of study

Students who are participating in the Ashkelon program for course credit take NELC S-198.

NELC S-198 Field School and Education Program for Ashkelon Excavations: The Leon Levy Expedition (32237)

Lawrence E. Stager
Adam J. Aja
(8 credits: UN, GR) Limited enrollment.

This is an interdisciplinary course of archaeological fieldwork based in experiential learning. Rigorous hands-on participation is the defining aspect of the Ashkelon experience. The level of full participation in all site activities—an archaeological "boot camp"—sets this program apart from other dig experiences. Students work five full days plus a half day in the field uncovering artifacts and learning the skills necessary for all students and scholars interested in continuing active fieldwork or advanced studies in archaeology. The fieldwork aspect of the course is supported by lectures and workshops by resident staff and visiting/guest scholars on the archaeology, geography, and history of ancient Israel, Phoenicia, and Philistia. Three field trips to other archaeological sites in Israel help students in this course to contextualize the work being done at Ashkelon and broaden participants' understanding of Israel and archaeological work being conducted therein. Students will have several introductory readings to complete before they come to the field and can expect to leave with a deep understanding of method, theory, and history.

Course credit

See Study Abroad Credit Information.


Lawrence E. Stager, PhD, Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel, Emeritus, Harvard University
Adam J. Aja, PhD, Assistant Curator of Collections, Semitic Museum, Harvard University

Additional instructional staff on site.


Before applying, review the Admission and Policies and FAQs pages.

Apply now >

Students must be at least 18 years old and have completed at least one year of college or be a first-year student in good academic standing to apply.

The application materials, outlined below, are due January 29, 2015:

  • A completed online application that includes:
    • A $50 nonrefundable application fee
    • A statement of interest in the program, including information on relevant coursework and travel experience abroad (previous travel is not a prerequisite)
    • Transcripts (student record accepted for Harvard students)

Program directors may ask for interviews.

Students are notified of admission decisions by late February.


There is a nonrefundable $50 application fee. The cost of the program is $6,250 and includes the following:

  • Tuition
  • Room and board
  • Field trips

In addition to the program fee, students are responsible for:

  • A health insurance fee (waived if students have US insurance that provides coverage outside the United States)
  • Transportation to and from Ashkelon
  • Independent excursions
  • The cost of passports and visas (if the latter is needed)
  • Any immunizations

Suggested budget

See a sample budget for estimated expenses.

How to pay and funding options

See Payment and Funding for payment deadlines, deposit amounts, and more information, including funding options for Harvard College students.


Students stay at the Leonard Hotel, a five-star seaside hotel, with transportation to and from the site provided. Breakfast is served in the field, while lunch and dinner are served in the hotel. Rooms accommodate three to four participants. See Leon Levy Expedition website for additional information.

Physical activity

Students are expected to participate in strenuous field activity with interest, precision, vigor, and attentiveness. Experience is not necessary, but enthusiasm, cheerfulness, and the ability to get along well with diverse personalities under field conditions are important in this intensive program.

Specifically, participants are expected to:

  • Perform manual labor in extreme heat of up to 100 degrees F for up to eight hours a day (with breaks)
  • Walk continuously for a half hour over uneven terrain
  • Lift up to 20 pounds
  • Climb up and down stairs and navigate in and out of deep dig sites without assistance

Additional information

Contact Ashkelon Excavations, info@digashkelon.com, (617) 495-9385. Also see the Leon Levy Expedition website.

Watch this video with Adam Aja displaying the artifacts found during the 2013 archaeological session in Ashkelon.

Students with disabilities

Students should contact the disability services coordinator as soon as possible. See Students with Disabilities for more information.