Unearthing a Mystery

Stern College Student Awarded Ackerman Family Dig Fellowship in Archaeology

Stern College for Women student Sima Fried, of Woodmere, New York, has been awarded a research fellowship in archaeology for the upcoming summer. The award, the Ackerman Family Dig Fellowship, covers the cost of room and board for the entire field season at Tell es-Safi/Gath in Israel.

Sima Fried, an anthropology student at Stern College for Women, labels a box at the dig.
Sima Fried, an anthropology student at Stern College for Women, labels a box at the dig.

Fried began her research last summer at the site of Tell es-Safi/Gath, also known as the biblical Goliath’s hometown, under the supervision of Dr. Jill Katz, clinical assistant professor of archaeology at Stern College, who is one of the area supervisors at the site. Along with other Yeshiva University students, Fried focused her research on the city’s fortification wall, analyzing its initial construction 5,000 years ago and its subsequent re-use by the Philistines during the time of the First Temple.

“By winning this fellowship, Sima had her contributions from last summer validated as well as receiving a vote of confidence regarding her potential to contribute to the team in a meaningful way next summer,” said Katz. “In the coming season, she will return with me as my field assistant.”

For Fried, a sophomore studying anthropology, the dig is a fascinating intersection of history, sociology, biology and psychology. “I have always had a passion for history, and archaeology is a unique and intimate way to interact with the past,” said Fried. “There is something truly awe-inspiring being the first one to unearth a vessel, or even a sherd of pottery, that has not been handled for thousands of years. There is also the adventure and sense of mystery that accompanies every sunrise—you never know what you might find.”

For instance, Fried recalled what appeared to be a cheap plastic bracelet that a volunteer at the dig picked up one morning near the main path. “The Tell is located in a national park and we initially believed the bracelet was litter from a tourist,” she said. “However, on closer inspection we realized that the bracelet was constructed from a beautifully decorated piece of glass—it was later identified as a Crusader Bracelet.”

Ultimately, Fried hopes to pursue a career combining as many of her interests as she can, possibly in academia or even biblical archaeology, like Katz. “Dr. Katz was invaluable in helping me create my shaped major and she was the one who encouraged me to apply to the fellowship,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe I will return to YU to help her build the department here.”