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Biblical Archaeology Review 47:1, Spring 2021

Strata: Digs 2021: Digging During a Pandemic

By Megan Sauter

To dig or not to dig—that is the question posed by numerous archaeologists these days.

As a global pandemic caused entire countries to shutter and restrict social gatherings, dig directors had to make difficult decisions regarding their planned excavations in 2020. Some, whose excavations took place early in the year, before the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) was widespread, enjoyed a typical dig season without travel and social restrictions. The vast majority of directors, however, had to cancel or downsize their digs.

Those who canceled had monitored the situation carefully before acting in a way that guaranteed the safety of their team and complied with travel restrictions. The directors of Tel Shimron in northern Israel, Daniel Master of Wheaton College and Mario Martin of Tel Aviv University, had been planning to dig from June 21 to July 31, 2020, but they canceled the season in April. They explain, “While we were disappointed that we couldn’t excavate, this was not a borderline decision. Once we saw how the pandemic exploded across the globe, we knew travel and excavation were out of the question.”

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