Indiana Jones made archaeology look so romantic—literally sweeping Marion off her feet and rescuing her from her damsel-in-distress-like moments in faraway places with strange sounding names. An archaeological dig, however, is more about early morning hours, grueling work, noses and shoes full of dirt, exhilarating finds and occasional disappointments. But all the dirt, sweat and toil aside, love can still blossom on a dig.

Archaeologist and emeritus professor Trude Dothan, who spent much of her nearly 50-year marriage to the late Moshe Dothan excavating in Israel, told BAR editor Hershel Shanks in 1993, that “there is nothing more romantic than being on a dig, you know. You can divorce or get married or have an affair. It can happen … many couples do come out of excavations.”

One of those couples is Amnon and Daphna Ben-Tor. Ben-Tor was a Ph.D. candidate working as a supervisor under famed archaeologist Yigael Yadin at Hazor when he “found” his wife, also a student. Now nearly 40 years later, the emeritus professor directs the dig where he first met Daphna, now the curator of Egyptian art at the Israel Museum.

Another couple, Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer, also fell in love over trowels and buckets. The Ritmeyers, whose story follows, are well known to BAR readers for their articles about, and architectural reconstructions of, Jerusalem, especially of the Temple Mount, where they met in the 1970s.

Falling in love is not the only extracurricular activity that happens on digs. In June 2001, Toni Fisher and Denny Clark, a professor at Albertson College in Idaho, actually tied the knot at the Iron Age city gate at Bethsaida. Dig director Rami Arav gave the bride away. And this year, one of our scholarship winners, Eric Lee Welch, a graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he is studying Biblical languages, brought his newly-wed bride Gretchen along with him to the dig at Tell es-Safi/Gath. Although it was not technically their honeymoon (that was a cruise in the Caribbean), Welch said:

It was fun to be working together to accomplish a goal. I suppose that aspect of it was great preparation for when we got back to real life outside the excavation … Excavating has always been a dream of mine, and I couldn’t imagine experiencing it for the first time without Gretchen by my side. A dream come true is always better when shared with the girl of your dreams.

How’s that for romantic?