Category Archives: Archaeology

Baram — The Synagogue

BaramAlmost all travelers to Israel will visit the justly famous synagogue at Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee—and some will even visit the one at nearby Chorazin.  However, the best preserved of the “Galilean Type” synagogues is the one located at the not-too-frequently visited site of Baram.  It is located in Upper Galilee, about 1.2 mi. [2 km.] south of the Israeli Lebanese border.

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View looking northeast at the southern façade of the synagogue at Baram
This southern wall is still intact—in contrast to the rebuilt walls of the synagogues at Capernaum and Chroazin
Click on Image to Enlarge

Note the light color of the building.  The darker grey upper portion was exposed to the elements over the years while the lighter lower portion was buried—until excavated.

There were eight columns that supported the roof of the porch—the one on the right (east) side is still standing!  The three main doors faced south—towards Jerusalem.  Stylistically, this synagogue is very similar to the more well–known ones at Capernaum and Chorazin.

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View looking southeast at the interior of the synagogue
Click on Image to Enlarge

Like the synagogues at Capernaum and Chorazin, the one at Baram has a central nave, two side aisles, and a back aisle.  The three main doors faced south—towards Jerusalem.   The floor of this synagogue was paved with limestone slabs (not mosaics).  There are indications that there were benches along the two side walls.

The dating of these “Galilean” synagogues is much debated with dates ranging from the third century A.D. (unlikely) to the six century (more probable).

To view additional images of the Baram Synagogue Click Here.

On Friday I will comment on the “modern” history of Baram—Kfar Bir’im.

A Fortress on Patmos

Although many think that Patmos was a barren Alcatraz-like island where John was exiled, this is not true (see Franz below).

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View looking west into the modern harbor of Patmos. The “mountain/hill” in the background is the Citadel of Patmos that is called the Kastelli. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

On the central portion of Patmos, the “Kastelli” (acropolis) towers over the main harbor at an altitude of 1,550 ft. [472 m.].

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View looking south at the west gate on the summit of Kastelli (the acropolis) of Patmos. Note the well-preserved exterior staircase.

The woman in the image is actually standing in the entrance–way.  The original line of fortifications is from the Hellenistic Period (third century B.C.), although this gate may have been rebuilt in more recent times.

fortification-towerView looking southeast at six courses of stone of one of the towers on the north slope of the acropolis of Patmos that is called the “Kastelli” (acropolis).  These fortifications date to the Hellenistic Period—that is about the third century B.C.  Compare the style of the well–preserved Hellenistic fortifications found at Priene and Assos—both in Turkey.

To view additional images of the Acropolis/Kastelli on Patmos Click Here.

For a helpful article describing the Patmos that John was exiled to, see Gordon Franz, “The King and I (Part 2).” Bible and Spade 12 (2000): 115–23.  It is also available on Gordon Franz’s web site Life and Land but without graphics.

Unusual Ritual Bath Discovered in Jerusalem

Many ritual baths from the Second Temple Period have been excavated in Jerusalem, but today (Wednesday, 5 August 2015) the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the excavation of one in the Arnona neighborhood in south Jerusalem.  This large mikveh has inscriptions, written in Aramaic, and symbols of a boat, palm trees, plants and possibly a menorah written or carved on its walls!

The Times of Israel has published an article describing this discovery along with 9 clear photos and an informative (partially in Hebrew) 5 minute video of the exterior and interior of the mikveh and its inscriptions.

Magdala: The Rest of the Story

MagdalaPanoIn two previous posts I described and posted images of the beautiful chapel and the first century synagogue at Magdala.  Besides these two structures a number of others have been discovered including an “Elite House” (=mansion) that contains three(!) ritual baths, a mosaic floor, etc.

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View looking east at a portion of the foundation walls of an elite residence that is located south of the synagogue. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

In the center of the image is a doorway and below it to the left are hewn steps that lead down into a miqveh (ritual bath).  The thickness of the walls indicates that there was more than one story to the house.  There is a mosaic under the permanent covering—that is still covered for protection.   Because of the ritual baths found in the house, it seems that wealthy/religious Jews that lived there.

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View of one of the three ritual baths that are part of an elite house that is located south of the synagogue at Magdala.

Hewn stairs lead down into the water.  The bath still contains water—actually a spring in the area still supplies the bath with water.

Between the synagogue and the mansion an extensive Market Area has been excavated.

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View looking east at the market of Magdala.

In the shops, pottery, woven goods, and fresh produce were sold.  In several of the shops there were plastered pools designed to hold fresh fish.  These pools had access to fresh underground water.

In addition, what is being called a “port,” was excavated—although the remains are not too impressive.

Finally, to the northwest is a very large freshwater pool called En Nun.

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View looking northwest at the large freshwater pool of En Nun.

This pool collects water from the springs that are located to the west of it.  It was apparently used for irrigation as far back as the Roman (= New Testament) Period.  It is possible that water was used in the fields north of Magdala.  Or, maybe it was used by another city that was located to the north of Magdala (Dalmanutha?? Mark 8:10).

 

 

First Century Synagogue at Magdala — Did Jesus Worship Here?

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Click on Panorama to view descriptive details.

In 2009, in preparation for the construction of a Franciscan Retreat Center on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, excavations took place before the construction began.  Much to the surprise of the excavators they came down upon a first century A.D. synagogue.

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The Interior of the First Century Synagogue at Magdala at the time of excavation
Note the benches around the side, the frescoed columns, and especially the unique stone box in the center of the image
Click to Enlarge — Photo: Gordon Franz

The synagogue measures 33 x 33 ft. and has benches on all four walls.  There is evidence that it was renovated between A.D. 40 and 50.  A coin from A.D. 29 was found among the debris and the synagogue was destroyed in A.D. 67 when Titus (the Roman General, later emperor) leveled the city.

If this dating, and interpretation are correct, it is very probable that Jesus, His disciples, Mary Magdalene, and others worshiped in this structure!!

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The “Stone Box” in-situ
Note the representation of a Seven Branch Menorah (on a tripod) that is flanked by two vases and clusters of columns
Click on Image to Enlarge — Photo: Gordon Franz

This solid “stone box” is totally unique.  Who ever carved the menorah probably saw the ones in the Temple in Jerusalem (prior to its destruction in A.D. 70).

For brief comments on Magdala see below
For 12 images of the Stone Box, Frescos,
and Mosaics of the Synagogue Click Here.
Many of these images are courtesy of Gordon Franz who publishes
articles on his website Life and Land

The site of al–Majdal (Arabic for “tower”) is located 4 mi. northwest of Tiberias, along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.  This is evidently the site of New Testament Magdala (from migdol “tower”) that is the same as Taricheae (“the place of salted fish”) mentioned by Josephus where a bloody naval battle took place between the Jews and Romans during the first Jewish Revolt (ca. A.D. 66–70; War 3.10.1–10 [462–542]).

It was evidently the home of Mary Magdalene, one of the followers of Jesus who is mentioned 12 times in the NT.  It actually may also be the site of “Magadan: (Matt 15:39) and/or “Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10).

The site was excavated in the 1970’s and more recent (ongoing) excavations have found the remains of an early Jewish Synagogue dated to the first century A.D. as well as ritual baths, streets, houses, and even the wharf.

Kishle Tour (Citadel at Jaffa Gate Jerusalem) — Herod the Great’s Palace

Over the years I have heard about the excavations under the Kishle (Turkish “temporary encampment;” now an Israeli police station) that revealed the foundations of King Herod’s Palace.  This site is located just inside and south of Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.  I have always wanted to see these excavations but have not been able to gain access until today.

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View looking south at the excavation that is under the Kishle. Actually, the wall perpendicular to the “org” at the bottom of the image is thought to be from the time of the Judean King Hezekiah (ca. 701 B.C.) — More in a future post.

What I found out is that there are guided tours (in English) that are open to the public on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10:00 AM for 45 NIS (ca. $11.50).  So, I purchased my ticket at the entrance to the citadel.  I was expecting a 20 minute tour of the excavations, but instead the tour lasted 90 minutes!  Our guide, Talia, took us to the top of the citadel and gave us an overview of the Old and New City).  We then walked down through the citadel examining the Hasmonean (2nd to 1st centuries B.C.) and Herodian (Herod ruled 37–4 B.C.)  walls (maybe even Hezekiah walls) along the way.

Via an underground passage way we entered the dry moat and made our way to the south (Talia commenting all along the way).  Along the path toward the excavated area we were shown a magnificent stepped pool that was part of King Herod’s Palace.

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Looking northeast at the carved steps that lead into the magnificent rock–cut pool that formed part of the Palace of Herod the Great (picture from inside the pool)

And . . . .

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A ritual bath (miqvah) that probably dates to the Hasmonean Period. Note the steps leading down into the miqvah.

And . . .

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An engaged column base—possibly from Herod’s time.

We spent about 20 minutes under the Kishle examining modern, Medieval, Herodian, Hasmonian, and First Temple walls and an aqueduct and a tanners’ tub—but these will be for a future post.

All in all, it was a very worthwhile 90 minutes!  And to top it off, we ended up inside the citadel so we were free to wander and photograph to our hearts content—all for $11.50!

 

16 HD 3-4 Minute Drone Videos of Israel

To date (29 April, 2015) Amir Aloni has posted 16 3-4 minute HD videos of Israel on Vimeo.  These were taken using a drone!  (If you want to see one of the drones in action click here and view at 0:05).  These are amazing!  His 16 titles include:

  1. Qumran Caves
  2. Spring 2015 in the Jordan Valley
  3. Herodion National Park
  4. The Green Desert
  5. A Greek Orthodox Epiphany Ceremony at the Jordan River
  6. Migdal Tseded-Rosh Haayin
  7. 669 Rescue Unit of the Israeli Air force
  8. Shokeda Forest 2015
  9. Eritreans Celebrate Epiphany
  10. Tomb of Samuel the Prophet
  11. Israel Dead Sea Rivers Flood
  12. Southern Negev and Arava
  13. The Dead Sea
  14. Tom-mismeret
  15. Dead Sea & Judean Desert
  16. Megilot Rescue Unit in Judean Desert