Fr Stephen Smuts

Posts Tagged ‘Galilee

Ancient Jewish Village Found in the Galilee

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By the Samford University team:

An archaeological expedition directed by Samford University religion professor James Riley Strange has uncovered the remains of a Jewish village in the Galilee sector of Israel.

Strange announced the discovery along with fellow directors Mordechai Aviam of the Institute for Galilean Archaeology at the Kinneret Academic College in Israel and David Fiensy of Kentucky Christian University.

The remains include an ancient synagogue, houses and massive evidence of pottery production in the ancient Jewish village of Shikhin, near the ancient Jewish city of Sepphoris (Zippori). The site is important because it teaches about Galilean Jewish village life and its economy at the birth of both Christianity and the Judaism of the Talmud, according to Dr. Strange. The sites are about five miles northwest of Nazareth.

“The site of the discovery has been abandoned, except for agriculture, ever since the mid-fourth century A.D.,” said Strange. “The buildings came down and people used its stones in other nearby buildings, then those buildings were destroyed and the stones were re-used again.”

He and his colleagues worked with a team of college students on the dig. Samford students Jonathan Sansom and Richard Shaw worked on the dig. Aaron Carr, a 2012 Samford graduate who has dug on teams led by Strange since 2009, is a staff member of the dig. Samford alumnus Kay Clements is a volunteer.

Strange has taught archaeology courses at Samford since 2007, and taken Samford students on archaeological expeditions to Galilee since 2009. He and the students have worked at the Shikhin site since 2011.

“We surveyed the site in 2011 and made the first excavation at the site in 2012,” he said.

The excavators noted that the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, mentions Shikhin as one of the earliest Jewish settlements in the Galilee at the time of the Hasmonaean dynasty, which ruled in about 140-63 B.C.. The Talmud mentions it as a village of potters near Sepphoris.

The team was surprised by the large number of molds for making oil lamps (seven) found at the site, proof that the village potters produced various types of oil lamps in addition to many common pottery forms. One small fragment of an oil lamp is decorated with a Menorah and Lulav (palm branch).

The Excavations at Shikhin are part of a cultural heritage project to preserve the site of Shikhin, located at the northern edge of Zippori National Park.

“The remarkable discovery at Shikhin by Dr. James Strange and his collaborators is the fruit of many months of skilled and patient effort,” said Samford provost and executive vice president J. Bradley Creed. “I am particularly grateful that under Dr. Strange’s tutelage, Samford students have been involved in the project which has been a once in a lifetime experience for them and an incredible learning opportunity. This international, cultural heritage project is a boon to the field of archaeology and historic preservation as well as a significant contribution to a richer understanding of human civilization and society.”

For more information on the Shikhin archaeological dig, go to



Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 5, 2013 at 14:34

Roman Base Uncovered in Galilee

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Israeli archaeologists uncover base of 6th Roman Legion in Galilee

Some more exciting archaeological news out of the Holy Land:

Israeli archaeologists have found ruins they believe are the site of one of the two Roman legions based in the country between 120 and 300 C.E.

Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Yotam Tepper had long suspected that the site in the Galilee was the base of the Legio Sexta Ferrata, the 6th Roman Legion, also known as the Ironclad Legion. The other legion in the country was the 10th, based in Jerusalem.

Over the past week, an expedition led by Tepper and archaeologist Matthew Adams found the base of a battery or wall, a moat surrounding the camp, water pipes, a covered sewage channel, coins and tiles. The legion’s symbol adorned a broken shingle.

The site sits between two other historical gems: Tel Megiddo, the ancient fortified city that has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the oldest known Christian house of worship, which was discovered around seven and a half years ago about a kilometer south.

Haartez has this photo, the article is behind a paywall.

HT:  PaleoJudaica


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 4, 2013 at 16:00

Galilee’s Magdala Center

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Uncovers well preserved Synagogue from the time of Jesus:


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

March 28, 2013 at 13:57

Samson Mosaic Excavated in Galilee Synagogue

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Monumental synagogue building discovered in excavations in Galilee:

A monumental synagogue building dating to the Late Roman period (ca. 4th-5th centuries C.E.) has been discovered in archaeological excavations at Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee.

The excavations are being conducted by Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and David Amit and Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority, under the sponsorship of UNC, Brigham Young University in Utah, Trinity University in Texas, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Toronto in Canada. Students and staff from UNC and the consortium schools are participating in the dig.

Huqoq is an ancient Jewish village located approximately two to three miles west of Capernaum and Migdal (Magdala). Thissecond season of excavations has revealed portions of a stunning mosaic floor decorating the interior of the synagogue building. The mosaic, which is made of tiny colored stone cubes of the highest quality, includes a scene depicting Samson placing torches between the tails of foxes (as related in the book of Judges 15). In another part of the mosaic, two human (apparently female) faces flank a circular medallion with a Hebrew inscription that refersto rewards for those who performgood deeds.

“This discovery is significant because only a small number of ancient (Late Roman) synagogue buildings are decorated with mosaics showing biblical scenes, and only two others have scenes with Samson (one is at another site just a couple of miles from Huqoq),” said Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor in the department of religious studies in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Our mosaics are also important because of their high artistic quality and the tiny size of the mosaic cubes. This, together with the monumental size of the stones used to construct the synagogue’s walls, suggest a high level of prosperity in this village, as the building clearly was very costly.”

Excavations are scheduled to continue in summer 2013.


Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

July 2, 2012 at 15:20

Leeches Invade Sea of Galilee

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Sad news this.

From Haaretz:

Leeches have invaded Lake Kinneret’s [the Sea of Galilee’s] shores – for the second time in seven years.

Standing in the water for as little as two minutes will cause your legs to be covered in hundreds of leeches. These particular types are not blood-suckers, making them relatively easy to remove once one is out of the water.

They are found on the lakebed, at depths of 0.5 to one meter, at two spots over the last few days: near the Sapir visitors center and along the western coastline. They live off snails and other invertebrates.

The leeches first overran the shores of the lake seven years ago.

Four types of leeches are known to live in the Kinneret, but they are usually present only in small numbers. This year, however, huge quantities have been detected.

The rest of the story suggests some explanations, including human activity and the rapidly changing water level.

Clouds over Sea of Galilee, tb102904607

Sea of Galilee

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

June 28, 2012 at 15:40

The Jesus Trail in Galilee Inaugurated

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As Bible Places reports:

Several years ago some private individuals developed the “Jesus Trail” for travelers who wished to walk from Nazareth to Capernaum. We described this effort at some length last year. Yesterday the government Israel dedicated the “Gospel Trail,” a route that travels the same ground as the “Jesus Trail” and apparently competes with it. The Jerusalem Post reports on the story:

Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov inaugurated on Tuesday the new Gospel Trail pilgrimage route which has been created by the Ministry of Tourism along with the Jewish National Fund.

The trail, which cost NIS 3 million to develop over three years, is designed to further increase the already large numbers of Christian tourists and pilgrims who visit Israel each year.


The route of the Gospel Trail follows the path which Jesus walked at age 30 after he was evicted from Nazareth, as related by the New Testament.

The trail, which runs for 63 kilometers, starts at Mount Precipice just outside Nazareth and continues eastwards down to Capernaum, taking in a number of important Christian holy sites.

These include the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount; Magdala (Migdal today) the home of Mary Magadelene; Tabgha, the site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand; and Capernaum, where Jesus established his ministry and met his first disciple Peter.

Those traveling the trail will be able to do so by car, bicycle and, more traditionally, on foot – despite the current lack of amenities and accommodation along the route. The ministry says it is working on a program to encourage entrepreneurs to develop tourist facilities to provide services for those walking the trail.

The story includes a 3.5 minute video which features interviews with Christian pilgrims pleased with the announcement.

A search for Gospel Trail takes one to, a site owned by Jesus Trail™.

The Israel Ministry of Tourism website includes a description of the Gospel Trail route and the infrastructure created by the $700,000 investment. The site also includes links to a 12-page booklet (which includes the map posted below), a stage-by-stage guide, and a high-resolution satellite map with the trail marked.


Map of the Gospel Trail from the Israel Ministry of Tourism booklet

Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

November 30, 2011 at 20:44

The Primacy of St Peter, Galilee

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Given today’s Gospel, I was thinking of this place a lot today (I took these photos there last year).

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Written by Fr Stephen Smuts

August 21, 2011 at 19:59


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