Niles minister visits sites of biblical importance

Published 9:47 am Friday, July 11, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- A Ph.D. program focusing on biblical archeology brought the Rev. Ron Wakeman with the First Presbyterian Church in Niles on an 18-day archeological expedition to the Mediterranean this spring.
Together with four Ph.D. students and three professors from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Wakeman, who isn't a Ph.D. candidate but has taken classes in the program, visited Cyprus, Crete, Greece, and the island of Patmos.
Patmos is located on the eastern borderline of the Aegean Sea and is the northernmost island of a group of islands called the Dodecanese.
The group visited 42 different archeological sites during the trip, making the pre-trip planning crucial to ensure they were able to see the sites they wanted to see.
Wakeman said he has had a long standing interest in ancient and Mediterranean cultures, but has gotten more into it in recent years.
He said the biblical archeological program Andrews University offered to Ph.D students, which there apparently aren't many left of in the country, gave him the opportunity to personally experience some of the things he has read so much about.
And, it being a biblical archeology program meant he could relate what he saw to his work as a minister.
Wakeman said the group was primarily interested in bronze age sites that were precursors to cultural aspects that have later been found in Palestine.
Palestine is located on the East coast of the Mediterranean Sea, West of Jordan and to the south of Lebanon.
Wakeman said the interesting thing about these two cultures is that around 1200 B.C., the two cultures simply appear to stop.
Wakeman said there are a number of theories indicating people from the two cultures travelled south on land, or perhaps even by sea.
Apparently traces of the Minoan and Mycenaean culture ended up in Philistine culture.
Wakeman said finds from Philistine sites in Palestine suggest that the people who lived there were not a homogenous group from one particular place, which could mean the Minoans and the Mycenaeans lived in the area after they left the places they came from.
The group spent the first four days of the trip driving around in a four-wheel drive visiting ruins in Cyprus, Wakeman said.
They also visited Nicosia, which today, to Wakeman's knowledge, is the only divided city in the world since the Berlin Wall that divided East and West Germany came down in the late '80s.
The group also visited Athens' world famous acropolis, which sits on top of a mountain above the City of Athens, and which is where the Parthenon was built.
Wakeman got his first view of the site from his hotel window.
Although Wakeman and his fellow students didn't get to do much archeological digging themselves, he said they visited some active sites where they were able to talk to archeologists.
Wakeman was most impressed with what he saw at the different sites, some of which were harder to find than others.
Although the group was on an unguided archeological expedition, they did have time to sample some of the food the Mediterranean countries are famous for.
Apart from the archeological sites Wakeman saw, he loved the beaches in Cyprus, which he said were pristine; Nicosia was interesting because it is a divided city, and Crete and Knossos were interesting because Knossos was the capital of the Minoan culture.
When asked what people who live in these areas think about the buildings and cultural remains that surround them daily, Wakeman offered an interesting analogy.