Childhood and Undergraduate Education

Dr. Robert R. Cargill was born in Van Nuys, California to Leonard and Sharon Cargill (née Costales) on February 22, 1973 (Pisces, Ox). He is of Spanish descent on his mother’s side, and Italian on his father’s side, with the Cargill name being of Scottish origin. His family soon relocated to Madera, California, a small farm town in central California that he called home for 15 years. Dr. Cargill has experienced every level of public education in California. He attended John Adams Elementary, Thomas Jefferson Junior High, and Madera High School. At age 17, his family moved to nearby Fresno, California, where he graduated from Bullard High School. He turned down undergraduate admission offers to attend UC Berkeley, USC, and Pepperdine, choosing instead to attend local community college. By working the graveyard shift at a local Walgreens, he put himself through Fresno City College, where he earned his A.A. degree and won a state championship in 1992 as a catcher with the baseball team. He then transferred to California State University, Fresno, where he followed a pre-medical curriculum and earned a B.S. degree in Human Physiology.

Graduate Education

Dr. Cargill then accepted the J.P. Sanders Scholarship to attend Pepperdine University, where he earned a Master of Science degree in Ministry and his seminary degree, the Master of Divinity. While studying biblical studies at Pepperdine, he began studying archaeology and ancient Near Eastern cultures under Dr. Randall Chesnutt and Dr. John F. Wilson. Also while at Pepperdine, he experienced the birth of his daughter, Talitha Joy. Dr. Cargill returned to Pepperdine in 2002 and taught courses in Hebrew Bible and New Testament at Pepperdine University. In 2004, he was hired by Academy Award winning actress Nicole Kidman to teach her history and religion of the Middle East. He then accepted a fellowship to attend the University of California, Los Angeles, and earned an M.A. in Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations and his Ph.D. under Dr. William Schniedewind in the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, with an emphasis in Second Temple period archaeology and biblical studies. His dissertation work focused on the archaeological remains of Khirbet Qumran, the site associated with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Archaeological Experience

Dr. Cargill has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Central and South America, and the Middle East. Dr. Cargill began his archaeological career in 1999 as a Square Supervisor in the excavations at Banias, Israel (Golan Heights) with Dr. Vassilios Tzaferis and Dr. John F. Wilson. The next year he served as Area Supervisor at Banias. In 2004, he began work as a Square Supervisor for the excavations at nearby Omrit, Israel with Dr. Andy Overman. Most recently, Dr. Cargill participated in the excavations at Hatzor, Israel in 2006 with Dr. Amnon Ben-Tor. Dr. Cargill is presently excavating with students from the University of Iowa at Tel Azekah as part of the Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition with Dr. Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University, Dr. Manfred Oeming of Heidelberg University, and Dr. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University. Dr. Cargill was a Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Research Associate while at UCLA.

Teaching Experience

Dr. Cargill is Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa. Prior to coming to Iowa, Dr. Cargill had taught at Pepperdine University, Azusa Pacific University, Portland State University, and UCLA. Among his taught courses are introductions to Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, introductions to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and New Testament, the History of Jerusalem (which uses Jerusalem as a lens through which to study and compare Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and a course comparing the evolution of the Mythologies of Otherworld Journeys in various religions.

Politics and Philosophy

Politically, Dr. Cargill is a moderate independent and is unaffiliated with any American political party. He is registered to vote in Johnson County, Iowa, with “No Party” listed as his party affiliation. He describes himself as a social progressive and a fiscal conservative. He is an ardent supporter of the separation of church and state. As a scholar, he accepts scientific facts like gravity and human evolution via natural selection, and has argued that science (and specifically archaeology) should not be used for evangelistic purposes and regularly critiques those who attempt to use what he terms “pseudoscience” to make religious claims. Dr. Cargill was raised as a Christian (Churches of Christ), but has since stated to his UCLA and Iowa classes (and the NY Times) that he is an agnostic, describing himself on his Facebook page as a “methodologically agnostic humanist advocating for social justice and academic inquiry studying the Persian and Hellenistic influences on Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity”. He is a member of the American Humanist Association and Project Reason. He has stated that Christian insistence upon the “inerrancy and infallibility” of the Bible and a literal interpretation of the biblical text is greatly harming modern Christianity. He does not view stories of a biblical six-day creation and a Great Flood as historical. Dr. Cargill has written extensively in favor of marriage equality, and against California Proposition 8, arguing that the state should not prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. (here and here and here)

Digital Humanities

Dr. Cargill is a faculty member of the University of Iowa consortium on Public Humanities in a Digital World, and a member of the Digital Humanities Cluster Cohort for the University of Iowa Digital Studio for Public Humanities. Prior to coming to Iowa, Dr. Cargill worked for the UCLA Center for Digital Humanities as the Instructional Technology Coordinator, and as Chief Architect and Designer of the Qumran Visualization Project, a real-time virtual reconstruction of the site of Qumran. He is an avid blogger, writing at this official blog, XKV8R, accessible either via or He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature Blogging and Online Publication steering committee. He has published and presented professional papers on issues dealing with blogging, online publication, and the future of instructional technology.


In August of 2010, Dr. Cargill was named one of Fresno City College’s 100 distinguished alumni as part of the college’s “100 Stars for 100 Years” program, celebrating the centennial anniversary of the college. In 2011, he was named Fresno City College’s Distinguished Alumnus Award Recipient and the 2011 Commencement Speaker at Selland Arena, Fresno, CA, May 20, 2011.

Membership in Professional Organizations

Dr. Cargill is a professional member of:

Society of Biblical Literature (Steering committee member)
American Schools of Oriental Research (Member)
Archaeological Institute of America (Member)
Association for Jewish Studies (Member)
Israel Exploration Society (Member)

He is also involved in other social and environmental organizations including:

American Mensa
Iowa City Noon Rotary
American Humanist Association
National Geographic Society
and is a proud supporter of KSUI 91.7, Iowa Public Radio, and NPR.

Research Interests

Research interests include the Hebrew Bible, development of the New Testament, Near Eastern archaeology, Qumran, the Dead Sea Scrolls, virtual reality, digital modeling, Hebrew and Aramaic, literary criticism, targums, the Bar Kokhba Rebellion, Melchizedek, and classical Judaean numismatics.

Publications and Appearances

Dr. Cargill’s first book, Qumran through (Real) Time: A Virtual Reconstruction of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Gorgias), examines the settlement of Khirbet Qumran using new technological approaches in the Digital Humanities including digital archaeological reconstruction and virtual reality.  His second book, Cities that Built the Bible (HarperCollins) is scheduled to be released March 29, 2016.

Dr. Cargill has appeared as an expert on numerous documentaries and television shows, including hosting the recent National Geographic special, Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls, and serving as Consulting Producer on History‘s six-episode documentary series “Bible Secrets Revealed,” in which he also appeared.

He regularly lectures locally and nationally on topics concerning archaeology, biblical studies, the Dead Sea Scrolls, religious sects in the Second-Temple period, and contemporary issues dealing with religion and politics.


Dr. Cargill was married to his partner, Roslyn, on March 20, 2010. He has a daughter, Talitha; a son, MacLaren; and fraternal twins  – a son, Quincy; and a daughter, Rory Kate. He resides in Iowa City, IA. He is a Mensan and a Rotarian and spends much of his spare time computing, reading, and hiking.

Dr. Robert Raymond Cargill is Assistant Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at The University of Iowa. He is a biblical studies scholar, classicist, archaeologist, author, and digital humanist. His research includes study in the Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, literary criticism of the Bible and the Pseudepigrapha, and the Ancient Near East. He has appeared as an expert on numerous television documentaries and specials and is an advocate for social justice and public higher education. He previously worked and taught at UCLA.

A.A. – Fresno City College (Liberal Arts)
B.S. – CSU Fresno (Human Physiology)
M.S. – Pepperdine University (Ministry)
M.Div. – Pepperdine University
M.A. – UCLA (Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations)
Ph.D. – UCLA (Near Eastern Languages and Cultures)

The official website of Dr. Robert R. Cargill

About Robert Cargill

Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.