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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Excavating Ancient Tiberias

Like a great jewel, the modern city of Tiberias rises on the slopes hugging the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is, among other things, a popular resort destination in Israel. But not far from its shops and hotels lies another Tiberias......an ancient one. In about 20 C.E., Herod Antipas saw this location as a seat of power and established Tiberias as a governing center and a city of prominence. In addition to its association with a region where Jesus walked, taught and performed his many miracles, it became a center of Jewish political and spiritual leadership. Here, the Sanhedrin sat. Here also, the Talmud was compiled and edited. In the Byzantine period, it drew thousands of Christian pilgrims and during the time following the Arab conquest it served as the capital of northern Palestine. Needless to say, its ancient political, spiritual, and attendant economic significance endows the location with archaeological treasures yet to be unearthed. Add to this the fact that the ancient site has been relatively unaffected by later construction, and you have a site that promises incredible potential for new archaeological discoveries.

Excavations began in March 2009 on a colonnaded structure in the heart of the ancient city, partially excavated in the 1950’s by B. Ravani and later by Y. Hirschfeld. The building, which was originally interpreted as a covered market, has recently been restudied by Dr. Cytryn-Silverman, who suggests that the structure is not a market, but rather a congregational mosque dating from the Early Islamic period. The main focus of the March season was to excavate squares in and adjacent to the colonnaded building, defining its phases, dating and architecture. Initial data was retrieved during the season, prompting further research questions dealing with the building, its phases and its urban context. These questions will be the focus of the work in the October-November season. Special finds from the first season include: a mosaic floor, an Arabic inscription, complete oil lamps and hundreds of coins. The current research aims to utilize information from past excavations along with meticulous field work in order to study the urban phases and layout.

The expedition will be housed at the Aviv Hotel, a 10 minute walk from the site along the promenade of the Sea of Galilee, and a five minute walk from the city center of modern Tiberias. All rooms have a private bathroom, TV, air-conditioning and a balcony. Single and double rooms are available ($500-$400). Camping options are also available. Check-in to the hotel is on Saturday evening, and check-out is on Thursday afternoon. Fees include meals from Sunday breakfast through Thursday dinner, as well as all lectures and field trips to nearby sites. Minimum participation is one work week, and student discounts are available.

If you are interested in participating with Dr. Silverman in this exciting new research as part of the team, please contact: tiberiasexcavation@yahoo.com


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