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National Geographic acknowledges work of Wooster student at excavation of ancient synagogue in Israel

Fritz Clingroth ’24, archaeology and art history double major at The College of Wooster

Fritz Clingroth ’24, archaeology and art history double major at The College of Wooster, had a hand in an archaeological excavation of an ancient mosque in Israel as part of a 2023 summer field experience. Because of the experience, his handiwork, name, and the College were acknowledged in the April 2024 issue of National Geographic that featured a story about the excavation. The magazine feature, “Surprising Scenes in Stone,” highlighted the excavation of the ancient synagogue in Huquq, Israel, and its amazingly well-preserved floor mosaics.

Clingroth was one of a handful of student volunteers from across the globe who helped last summer with the archaeological excavation project of Jodi Magness, professor of early Judaism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The work at the site that Magness has been excavating for more than a decade gave Clingroth the opportunity to combine his interest in archaeology and Israeli history toward his goal of becoming a conservator.

Initially, he was drawn to archaeology for the hands-on approach to working with the past. Wooster, a small college with a “really good archaeology program,” provided the right mix for Clingroth. While studying art history and archaeology, he learned that conservation satisfied his interest in working in a museum setting and preserving the past while also studying artifacts and historic materials. At Wooster, he also studied how religion influences art and material culture, another one of his interests.

During the field work in Israel, Clingroth started excavating defined areas before he knew what he would find. He learned proper archaeological techniques for using the appropriate tools, registering artifacts, and documenting a site. After the project leader learned he was interested in being a conservator, they allowed him to work with onsite conservators to stabilize and clean the mosaics. The magazine photo identified him and conservator Linda Roundhill studying “a mosaic depicting a hare and what may be a fox nibbling grapes, a scene that likely symbolized abundance.”

He enjoyed and appreciated practicing in the field and is proud to contribute to uncovering Israeli history. “Because Judaism and Christianity are influential in Israel’s early history, studying Israeli archaeology there gave me a direct opportunity to explore my interests in the ways religion influences art and material culture,” Clingroth said. The excavation also focused on the Byzantine period of Israeli history, which is one of his primary areas of focus in art history and archaeology. At the end of the work, he was surprised when the mosaics were re-covered to preserve them until the Israeli government uncovers them to use the historic site for tourism. He hopes to go back when the site is uncovered to see what they’ve done with it.

The hands-on field work also contributed to Clingroth’s Independent Study topic, which looks at the archaeological undertakings of a corporation responsible for excavations, heritage management, and rebuilding of post-war Beirut. His focus is on the politics and policies of archaeology. The I.S. experience is a unique, shared experience that bonds Wooster students, he said, and another reason he chose to attend the College. After graduating, he hopes to work in museums on archaeological collections. “I see art conservation as an extension of my majors. It takes aspects of archaeology like problem-solving, working with your hands, and scientific analysis and applies them to an art-based context.”

Posted in News on May 14, 2024.


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Related Areas of Study

Art - Art History

Explore the cultural and historic significance of art and artists while building research and analytical skills.

Major Minor

Archaeology

Fieldwork and research are a big part of the study of prehistoric and historical archaeology

Major Minor

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