Hector Avalos, Religious Studies, (515) 294-0051
Steve Sullivan, News Service, (515) 294-3720


AMES, Iowa -- Hector Avalos, Iowa State University associate professor of religious studies, is studying relics that may have been used at an ancient health clinic in Israel.

The relics were uncovered at an archaeological dig in the biblical town of Bethsaida, Israel. Bethsaida is mentioned in the Bible as the hometown of some disciples of Jesus. Since 1997, excavations have uncovered an Iron Age (ca. 1200-586 B.C.) settlement underneath the city. Among the findings at the site were medical instruments inside a building. The building may have functioned as a clinic or the house of a physician, said Avalos, who has visted the site.

Avalos has been asked by Rami Arav, director of excavations at Bethsaida and professor at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, to study the medical instruments and the site. Avalos will study the medical instruments to determine their use and the site where the instruments were found to determine if it was a clinic or a physician's house. Avalos also hopes to study the results of identification tests that will be done on substances in small medicinal containers found at the site.

"Looking at these factors could tell us a lot about the economics of health care in this period," said Avalos.

Avalos has done extensive research and writing on ancient health care, including two books. In his most recent book, "Health Care and the Rise of Christianity," Avalos argues that Christianity arose as a Jewish sect that was responding, in part, to problems of health care within Judaism and the Greco-Roman world.

Through the support of the university's Jewish Study Committee, Iowa State is joining a consortium of universities studying Bethsaida. Avalos will be on the consortium's board of directors.

"My goal is to establish both a new course in biblical archaeology and a program that will take Iowa State students and faculty to excavate in Israel," said Avalos.


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