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UW Madison Prof Helps Preserve Historic Church in Bethlehem

UW Madison Prof Helps Preserve Historic Church in Bethlehem

“first built in 339 A.D.”

So often, we post about the negative stories in higher education. It’s cool to focus on something positive.

The La Crosse Tribune reports:

UW-Madison professor helps preserve historic church in Bethlehem

Thousands of miles away, in the little town of Bethlehem, a UW-Madison professor’s work is helping to keep the walls of a centuries-old church standing.

The Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem was first built in 339 A.D. on what is said to be the location of Jesus Christ’s birthplace. The historic significance of such a long-standing structure and the religious significance of the church make it a major tourist attraction.

Archaeologists are also drawn to the site, studying artifacts they find and dig up there. But the digging could be a problem.

“The concern was that the excavation may have compromised the structure of the holy place,” said Dante Fratta, the UW-Madison associate engineering professor who joined a team to help maintain the site.

Fratta was enlisted as part of a team of five experts from around the world to study the structure in July. Fratta’s expertise comes in the form of nondestructive detection — meaning he uses technology to evaluate the stability of a structure in a way that doesn’t physically impact it.

To look at the structural stability of the church, Fratta used monitors that send out and record electromagnetic and seismic waves. The recordings then produced a three-dimensional image that let Fratta see how deep the foundation was and if there were any holes or anomalies in walls and columns that could not be seen from the exterior.

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