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Hesse Memorial Archaeological Laboratory

Located on the campus of Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, the Hesse Memorial Archaeological Laboratory houses animal bone remains from the excavation site of Tel Dan in northern Israel. These bones are used to help understand ancient history and culture and educate students and the community about the application of zooarchaeology to the field of biblical archaeology.

The lab is named in honor of Prof. Brian C. Hesse (1944-2011) of Pennsylvania State University, a pioneer in the application of “zooarchaeology” (the archaeology of animal bones) to the field of biblical archaeology.


Current research includes the analysis of a large collection of animal bone remains from the site of Tel Dan in northern Israel on loan from the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology at the Hebrew Union College of Jerusalem. This analysis will be included in the final excavation volumes for the Tel Dan project currently being prepared and now benefits from collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Arnold of Grand Valley State University’s Department of Anthropology.


Understanding the Bible in its historical context is vital to our rigorous teaching at GRTS. By creating avenues of understanding these contexts, our students can become better equipped to ask deeper questions about the relationship between the Bible and the past and why that matters for theology and ministry today. Students have the opportunity to experience the laboratory hands-on with elective courses: BBL-600 Biblical Archaeology and BBL-783 Methods and Practice in Biblical Archaeology as a small group, hybrid or independent study course and utilize the lab extensively.

The lab is equipped with appropriate manuals, scientific instruments (including a digital microscope and photography station) and an ever-growing reference collection of comparative faunal remains. The space has also provided a setting for pre-dig training for students participating in the excavations at Tel Dan.

The lab co-hosts public lectures on topics related to biblical archaeology. In addition, the lab is open for tours.

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