Nathaniel Deaton ’15 focuses John C. Young research on ancient Israel

Posted by Centre News in Academics, John C. Young Program, News 17 Apr 2015

deaton_nateNathaniel Deaton has spent his senior year conducting independent research titled “The Village, Unearthed: New Perspectives of the Roman Economy and the Man from Nazareth,” supported through Centre College’s selective John C. Young (JCY) Scholars program.

The program is designed to serve highly motivated senior students, allowing them to engage in independent study, research or artistic work in their major discipline or in an interdisciplinary area of their choosing. They work closely with a faculty mentor and receive financial support for research and travel. Deaton’s faculty mentor is Nelson D. and Mary McDowell Rodes Professor of Religion Thomas McCollough.

Nate Deaton ’15 and an Israeli student stand on an excavated stylobate from an ancient  synagogue in Galilee

Nate Deaton ’15 and an Israeli student stand on an excavated stylobate from an ancient synagogue in Galilee

“The project itself is a re-examination of archaeological reports pertaining to early 1st Century village sites that dot the area around Jesus’ ministry,” Deaton says.

The excavations are situated around Nazareth and focus on six case study villages: Shikhin (a pottery production center); Capernaum (where Jesus spent a great deal of time for his ministry); Gamla (a village that participated in the Jewish revolt); Magdala (home village of Mary Magdalene according to tradition); Yodefat; and Khirbet Qana (where Dr. McCollough has spent years leading archaeological research).

“I spent CentreTerm in East Jerusalem working in the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research,” Deaton continues. “The Albright is essentially the Mecca of archaeological research and hosts thousands of articles, maps, books and other materials related to near east archaeology.”

According to Deaton, many famous scholars such as John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan Reed have argued that these villages were quite impoverished and oppressed by a Roman elite.

“I am re-examining the economic data of these villages to find out if this model set by Crossan and Reed holds veracity. Thus far, the findings suggest something less reductive,” he explains, adding that much of the uncovered data is relatively fresh revealing evidence that these Jewish villages did participate in Roman trade.

“Now, I am not making a blanket statement that the Galileans were all wealthy, nor do I think that most of them were. However, the archaeological remains that indicate wealth (such as fine glasswares, imported ceramic wares, other imported goods, industrial sites such as kilns, massive olive oil presses and large water cisterns) are showing themselves quite frequently in these ‘impoverished and oppressed villages.’ It is an interesting thought to entertain that the artifacts uncovered simply do not interpret themselves but must be carefully explained within the larger historical context,” he concludes.

Ultimately, Deaton says that the yearlong research project has sparked his interest in graduate work and archaeology in general.

“It is simply magnificent to me that so much still has not been uncovered, yet we know it exists just inches deep in the ground,” he explains.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Dr. McCollough on this project; the material is so interesting and gives me a sense of wonder about the world in general.”

The seven John C. Young Scholars will present their research on Saturday, April 18, during a day-long event in Vahlkamp Theatre. View the full schedule.

by Cindy Long