At ‘Auja el-Foqa it might be due to the timing of their dig season last year (February 9–20, 2020), that the researchers were not affected by the virus.
Directed by David Ben-Shlomo of Ariel University and Ralph K. Hawkins of Averett University, the ‘Auja el-Foqa team enjoyed a winter excavation season without restrictions.
The first cases didn’t appear in the U.S. until January, so most of the teams volunteers had purchased airline tickets and such by then. Even though there were cases being reported by the time their dig occurred the team did not suspect that international travel would cease and that there would be an international strategy of locking down. Fortunately, all of their students and volunteers got home before these things occurred.
The Jordan Valley near Jericho is one of the hottest places on earth, and summer temperatures can exceed 115–120 degrees Fahrenheit (45–48 degrees Celcius). During our first season, in the summer of 2019, the aridity limited their digging to the cooler morning hours. For their second season of excavation in the winter of 2020, the temperatures were much more comfortable, averaging 43–68 degrees Fahrenheit (6–20 degrees Celcius); they even had rain on the site.
Ben-Shlomo & Hawkins:
Last summer we announced dates for a 2021 season, and we went into the fall with the expectation that we would be able to conduct such a season. We did receive a few early applications from students and volunteers, but, when travel restrictions remained in place, these trickled to a halt. Without knowing when travel restrictions will be lifted, students and volunteers have been reluctant to make plans.
After much deliberation, we decided to delay this year’s dig season until 2022. Now that vaccines for COVID-19 are being distributed widely, our hope is that travel restrictions will be lifted this summer, and we will be able to make plans for a full season in 2022.
Related reading in Bible History Daily:
Digs 2019: A Day in the Life by Robert Cargill
Digs 2018: Migration and Immigration in Ancient Israel by Robert Cargill
Digs 2017: Digging Through Time by Ellen White
Digs 2016: Passport to the Biblical World by Robin Ngo
Digs 2015: Blast from the Past by Megan Sauter
Digs 2014: Layers of Meaning by Noah Weiner