Jodi Magness


National Geographic Society/Waitt Grantee

Picture of a mosaic being studied

Photograph by Jim Haberman

Picture of Jodi Magness

Photograph by Jim Haberman

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I wanted to be an archaeologist since I was 12 years old, thanks to a seventh-grade teacher who introduced me to the ancient world. The caption under the photo in my ninth-grade yearbook reads "Ambition:archeologist."

How did you get started in your field of work?

I finished my high school education in Israel. By then, I knew I wanted to be an archaeologist. I stayed in Israel and attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where I earned a B.A. in archaeology and history. I was always interested in the classical (Greek and Roman) world, so I ended up specializing in the classical periods in Israel. After finishing my B.A., I worked as a guide and naturalist at the Ein Gedi Field School by the Dead Sea for three years. That was a fantastic experience—Ein Gedi is an extraordinarily beautiful place, and I acquired a deep knowledge and appreciation of the region. After that, I returned to the U.S. and enrolled in the graduate program in classical archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania, where I earned my Ph.D.

What inspires you to dedicate your life to archaeology?

A passion for archaeology and the desire to share that passion with others

What's a normal day like for you?

It depends on the day—whether I am teaching classes and advising students or doing research or on my dig or traveling and giving lectures around the U.S. (which I do a lot). So, there is no normal day, but every day is full and busy and is a workday. There are no days off, no weekends, and no holidays, which is fine with me. I love what I do, and I feel privileged to be able to do it.

Do you have a hero?

I don't know that I have a single hero, but there are many people who I admire and to whom I am grateful. I am fortunate to have wonderful, loving, supportive parents. My Ph.D. dissertation adviser, Jim Sauer, was also a hero. Tragically, he passed away in 1999 at the age of only 54 after a long illness. I miss him, and I think his early death was a loss to the field of Syro-Palestinian archaeology. My husband is also a hero—he is so supportive of me and my career, and he is also my dig photographer!

What's been your favorite experience in the field? The most challenging?

I can't single out any one favorite experience in the field, as there have been so many remarkable experiences over the years. Certainly my current excavation at Huqoq [Israel] ranks among the top experiences—the discovery of the mosaics has been so exciting. The biggest challenges are funding the Huqoq excavations (the excavation and conservation of the mosaics is extremely costly), and keeping up with the publication of our discoveries. People don't realize that excavating is not the goal; publishing what we dig up is the goal.

What are your other passions?

I love to ice skate (figure skate) but I haven't done it in a few years as I am too busy and there are no rinks near my house. I am also an avid football fan (college and pro).

Magness's Site

Huqoq Excavation Project

In Their Words

People don't realize that excavating is not the goal; publishing what we dig up is the goal.

—Jodi Magness

Meet All Our Explorers

  • NationalGeographic_1289095-flag.jpg

    Explorers A-Z

    At the heart of our explorers program is the quest for knowledge through exploration and the people who make it possible.

  • Photo: Michael Lombardi diving

    Explorers by Category

    Browse our different areas of exploration and discover the fascinating people behind the projects.

Our Explorers in Action

See Photos »