Hebrew Bible and ANE History Lists Commentary

News and Comments that relate to the Hebrew Bible and to my posts on various ANE and Hebrew Bible related mailing lists - Yitzhak Sapir

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Mosaic Revealed in Tiberias Excavations

Updated March 9: Added "Totally Jewish" news report and link to Modica conference blog entry

Silver coins discovered this week
Photo source: Yaron Kaminsky, Haaretz (Hebrew)
Haaretz (Hebrew) reported that in excavations this week at Tiberias, archaeologists discovered a mosaic containing a picture of a lion or dog, a flying dove, and grapevine branches with grape clusters. The mosaic, dating to the 4th century CE, was uncovered in a semicircular niche in the basilica structure, where scholars believe the Sanhedrin was operating, after it had moved to Tiberias in the 3rd century CE. The archaeologists say that this shows how beautiful the basilica must have been. Unfortunately, a wall built later divides the mosaic. An inscription that may have originally been written in the mosaic has been destroyed and all that is left is a corner of the frame inside of which an inscription was possibly present.


Helping in the dig are dozens of local and international volunteers. Among them are the couple Judith and Lionel Kohn of Calgary, Canada. The couple, who are archaeology lovers, intend to help donate towards the excavation of the Roman theater that lies buried under large mounds of dirt.

Also uncovered in the dig was a hoard of 92 silver coins that were buried under one of the stores being uncovered currently, dating to the second half of the 11th century CE. Seljuk warriors were attacking the city during this period and one of the attacks, in 1078, ended in a large massacre. Perhaps the shop owner hoped to save his fortune should the security improve and he will be able to return to his shop. Prof. Yizhar Hirschfeld, who is managing the dig, suggests that he probably died. "In 1099, when the Crusaders reached Tiberias, they found a ghost town and rebuilt the city, north of the Roman town."

Update: Sammy Herman, apparently participating in the dig, describes the discovery of the hoard as follows:

Here and there, groups of volunteers struggle with buckets and spades. The professionals supervise from a distance, encouraging the amateurs with patient smiles at every shard of pottery they turn up. Bedouin from the north work on their own section, at a pace that makes the rest of the excavators look like they’re playing with sand at the beach. The sun beats down and a breeze catches the water on Lake Kinneret, making it glisten softly.

Then suddenly there’s a rush as news of the hoard spreads. Everyone runs to see what the fuss is about. The professor offers an impromptu lecture to the assembled crowd and magically we’re transported back to a distant past as a man, about to lose all he has, hides a few coins in his shop, which he’ll never see again.

Note last month, in a conference in Modica, Italy nine Mediterranean states signed an agreement to protect Mosaics in the Mediterranean area.

Related Links:


  • Gross, Netty C. "Rediscovering Tiberias". The Jerusalem Reporter May 3, 2004. p. 18-20
  • Hirschfeld, Yizhar. Roman, Byzantine, and Early Muslim Tiberias: A Handbook of Primary Sources.
    This book includes the most updated information available about Tiberias. In it you will find a wide selection of written sources, including coins and inscriptions from Tiberias and/or mentioning the city, as well as updated plans, maps and artist’s reconstructions of the city. All proceeds from the purchase of this book go directly to support the dig. The cost of each personally autographed copy of the book is $20.


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