Biblical Archaeology With Dr. Shelley Wachsmann

by Hope Beithchman, Hillel Marketing and Communications Intern

Last week Texas A&M Hillel had to pleasure of hosting Professor Shelley Wachsmann for our first Israel Coffee Talk in our monthly series. Dr. Wachsmann grew up in an Orthodox family with a father as a rabbi. At the young age of fourteen Professor Wachsmann was sent to seminary school in Chicago, which he was promptly kicked out of after one year. However, he finished his Jewish education at a Jewish high school.

Two weeks after his graduation from high school Dr. Wachsmann left for Israel to live on a kibbutz for a year. While there he decided to join the IDF as a paratrooper, with slight resistance from his parents. He spent 15 months in the IDF as part of the 55th unit. This special unit has been part of every major mission for decades. Upon his release he finished his schooling at the Hebrew University, getting his degree in archaeology. However, Wachsmann wasn’t the best student. It took him nearly 20 years for Wachsmann to go from his B.A. to his PhD.

While at the Hebrew University Dr. Wachsmann took part in the archaeology department’s first dive. After graduation he spent 1976-1989 in Israel doing underwater archaeology dives. He was the excavator on the team that found that only ancient boat in the Sea of Galilee. And unlike the Israelis long journey out of the desert that took 40 days and nights, this excavation only took 11.

Dr. Wachsmann’s interest is in nautical archaeology around 1300-1200 BCE. While in Israel he participated in other expeditions such as a dig in a public park that was interrupted by rocket shootings from Hamas. He has also found two Nazi submarines in Israeli water and a World War One Ship with some of the weapons still attached. Wachsmann said his favorite part of underwater archaeology is that, “everything the humans have ever made has been carried by boat, they’re like traveling time capsules”.

Professor Wachsmann came to Texas A&M University in 1990 as a visiting professor, he wasn’t supposed to stay, but has been at Texas A&M for almost 26 years now. He teaches a Biblical Archaeology course two times every spring semester. Wachsmann says he is proud to teach at Texas A&M, “the number one underwater archaeology school and the only one that gives a Ph.D.”

If you are interested in going on an archaeology dig you can refer to the Biblical Archaeology Review in Evans Library. The January/ February issue has a listing of all expeditions taking place this year. Contact Professor Wachsmann for more information.

If you missed this Israel Coffee talk don’t fret! Professor Wachsmann doesn’t mind having people sit in on his class. Plus, mark your calendar for the next talk in our series on March 1st at Hillel, the fascinating topic is “Arab Citizens of Israel” with Dr. Ashley Passmore. We also have a group of Israeli Defense Force soldiers that travel around the country visiting us on February 18th at 7 p.m. You don’t want to miss these exciting events!