There’s only one step from Indiana Jones to Khirbat as-Sar !

The image of the École Biblique can be seen in different countries. Let’s discover a Polish facet with Friar Rafał, a doctoral student, who tells us how a childhood dream became reality!

Can you tell us about the journey that brought you here ?
My adventure with the École Biblique began in 2012, when I was one of the so-called “Hobbits”. During the summer holidays, I helped with the library inventory. Of course, we didn’t manage to go through all the books in two months! At the time, I hadn’t yet thought about Bible studies, but while I was preparing my Master’s degree in patrology, the local library proved very useful. I started my Bible studies in Rome in 2015. Since October 2021, I have been a doctoral student at the École Biblique.

What is your research subject ?
I am currently working on St Luke’s soteriology in the context of his Greek and Roman contemporaries’ beliefs about salvation and in the context of the cult of deities called saviours. More broadly, I am interested in the New Testament and everything that helps us to understand it better: the history, politics and culture of Greece and Rome, as well as the Jewish context, in particular the literature of the Second Temple. And, of course, archaeology!

What does archaeology mean to you ?
When I was a child, I dreamed of becoming an archaeologist. This dream was born in me thanks to the Indiana Jones films. Of course, I wasn’t yet aware that the work of an archaeologist is completely different, although the discoveries are no less fascinating. In May, I finally had the opportunity to fulfil a childhood dream and take part in an archaeological dig in Amman.
The director of the dig was Mariusz Burdajewicz, an ÉBAF alumnus who has been working on various projects with our archaeologists Jean-Baptiste Humbert and Jean-Michel de Tarragon for 30 years. Together with him, Professor Jolanta Młynarczyk, who has also worked with the School for many years, directed the excavations.

Now you’re off on a great adventure, how did it go ?
The excavation site is located on the outskirts of Amman and is called Khirbat as-Sar. The oldest structure is a monumental tower built by the Ammonites, which was transformed into a temple in Roman times. The site has undergone many phases of occupation, including the Islamic period.
The excavations took place under the auspices of the University of Warsaw. In the small Franco-Polish team, I was the only person with no field experience. I had to learn a lot of practical things quickly, including how to communicate in Arabic with the local staff. I didn’t dig up Aphrodite, which I had secretly dreamed of doing, but it was an extraordinary adventure and a learning opportunity for me! Professor Jolanta gave me a crash course in ceramics based on the materials we found.

In fact, your childhood dream has reinforced your work as a researcher ?
Yes, living here has gradually introduced me to the world of archaeology, so that I can better understand the biblical texts. The archaeological context is also extremely important in my doctoral work. Taking part in this fieldwork was an excellent way of gaining an even better understanding of what can be read in the excavation reports. I’m delighted to have had this opportunity, thanks to the kindness of long-standing friends of the School. I’d recommend it to anyone !