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High-Tech Reveals Ancient Mysteries during Duquesne Dean’s Research Abroad

Did a series of tunnels connect sacred spaces of different beliefs in Nazareth? Was a Catholic church in Rhodes built upon-or historically, sharing space with-a synagogue?

Preliminary data-though not yet certified answers-from recent geoarchaeological research in Israel and Greece suggest "yes" answers to these questions, said Dr. Philip Reeder, dean of Duquesne University's Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences.

"We could be rewriting history with technology," said Reeder, who was responsible for collecting data, then producing maps and diagrams of the subsurface ruins based on geophysical analysis. As part of a team from three U.S. academic institutions and a Canadian company, Reeder spent Jan. 4-22 in Israel and Greece collecting data using state-of-the-art geophysical equipment. Reeder hopes to return next year, and meanwhile, will expand Duquesne's participation by including a DNA component.

Preliminary results reveal intriguing possibilities just meters beneath the Earth's surface:

Tunnels from Mary's Cave/Mary's Well. Mary's Well in Nazareth is where the Angel Gabriel is said to have appeared to Mary. Nearby Mary's Cave could have been incorporated into a church no longer on the site and provided access to the nearby Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation (St. Gabriel's) or the nearby Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation. The team hopes to locate and map the ancient tunnel system-and possibly, inter-faith relationships.

Rhodes' Kahal (Gadol) Grande Synagogue. As with many structures, this ruined synagogue, built in the Knights Templar Period around 1480, may sit upon pre-existing foundations, perhaps of an earlier synagogue. What appear to be the ruins of a Catholic church are adjacent to this site.

"This poses an interesting question. Did the two exist side by side in antiquity?" Reeder asks in his blog. "This would be of great cultural significance if a synagogue and church existed side by side and operated at the same time."

Rhodes' Knights Templar Grand Master Palace. This location, tied to the Crusades, shows evidence of pre-existing structures from the Ottoman, Byzantine and even earlier Hellenistic Greek periods. "A long-term objective in the research design is to understand the relationship between the Byzantine era walls, earlier Hellenistic period walls and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Colossus of Rhodes," Reeder blogs. One theory holds that the Colossus, a 90-foot statue constructed over 12 years, was erected in 280 B.C. on the Knights Templar Palace site.

While reviewing data, Reeder awaits another research opportunity that can include Duquesne faculty and students. As part of the recent research, Greek authorities are sharing teeth collected from ancient burials for analysis in the Bayer School's DNA Laboratory to begin understanding the lineage of Rhodians.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.