John Brown University announced this week an anonymous $1 million gift to JBU’s Abila Archaeological Project (AAP). The gift will help fund the excavation, conservation and restoration of the archeological site of Abila of the Decapolis in Northern Jordan as well as JBU’s Jordan Summer Studies Program, the Holy Lands Study Trip, and the biannual Abila Lecture in Biblical Archaeology.
To date, excavation at the site has focused on five large Byzantine churches, 12 miles of water tunnels running under the city, a Roman Bath complex, a Christian monastery dating to the 8th century CE, an Early Bronze period of occupation dating to the early 2nd millennium BCE and hundreds of Roman and Byzantine tombs. JBU has sent over 100 students, faculty, staff and alumni to work on the excavation site since 2006.
The gift is a part of the university’s Endowment for Academic Excellence, a priority of JBU’s $125 million Campaign for the Next Century. JBU has currently raised more than $74 million toward the $125 million goal and plans to complete the campaign on JBU’s centennial in 2019.
“We are so grateful for this generous gift to JBU’s Abila project,” said Chip Pollard, JBU president. “The Abila Archaeological Project has created wonderful opportunities for JBU students to uncover the history of Abila and the church in Jordan as well as to learn from the people of Jordan. We are so thankful for this gift to encourage the growth and excellence of this program.”
The AAP was established by W. Harold Mare of Covenant Seminary in St. Louis in 1980 and has coordinated excavations at the Abila of the Decapolis on even-dated summers since that time. JBU Professor of Religion and Philosophy David Vila has been working with the APP since 1990 and
became director of the program in 2008. The AAP was an independent 501(c)(3) until 2013 when, under Vila’s leadership, JBU took oversight of the organization and established an endowment to fund the program. With this gift, the AAP endowment will reach $2 million.
“It has been an incredible journey watching the AAP grow these 25 years,” said Vila. “This wonderful gift enables JBU to continue the work of excavation and conservation of a site so historically significant while uniquely educating students and staff about the rich history of the Holy Land.”