"The William M. Davidson Sepphoris Excavation (1998)"
Zippori (Sepphoris) - Archaeological Summer Course,

June 28 - July 3, 1998

"The William M. Davidson Sepphoris Excavation (1998)" held last summer, was conducted in five different parts of the site. Four are areas in which work had begun in previous seasons and one was new area. Area supervisors were: Oren Guttfeld, Shlomit Cohen, Yoav Farhi, Hagit Ma'oz and Tammar Rabbi. Tomer Goldstein, Architect; Gabi Laron, Photography; Mantzur Subbhi, Foreman. A group of 52 students (49 University of Michigan students and three from other U.S. universities) participated in the five week academic program, together with several Israeli volunteers and local workers who joined the dig.

"William M. Davidson Sepphoris Excavation (1998)" was conducted by the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with support from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and the cooperation of the University of Michigan Hillel, Ann Arbor. Special assist was given by the National Parks and Nature Reservations Authority.

The Orpheus Building (Area 76.1)

The major effort this year was concentrated in completing the excavation of the Orpheus building partly unearthed in the 1995, 1997 seasons (area 76.1). Several squares were opened to the north and west of the building, several baulks and later construction were taken down and excavations in the area were deepened. The building which is now almost fully excavated is a luxurious private house measuring 16 by 28 meters. It extends between the decumanos (east-west colonaded street in lower Zippori) and the western bathhouse. To the east it is constructed next to the cardo (north south colonaded street in lower Zippori) and to the west it was built adjacent to another building, of which only its foundations are preserved. Several rooms were uncovered this year to the west and north side of the triclinium, some of them included mosaics with simple designs.

The overall picture of the Orpheus building is clear although further detailed clarification is still needed. The Orpheus mosaic, the floor of a dining room (triclinium), was at the center of the building. Several rooms surrounding the triclinium from all sides. The rooms, of which some served as corridors, were also decorated with either white or simple geometrical mosaics. The buildings entrance was through a paved courtyard located to the east of the triclinium. The building was constructed in the second half of the third century and destroyed, probably by an earthquake, in the mid fourth century C.E. and then renovated immediately thereafter. The renovated building followed the original plan in most areas, but had new mosaics which were laid 10 cm. above the previous ones. The new mosaics, which are not well preserved, provide enough evidence to reconstruct the building's architectural plan and decorations of the second phase. Several rooms had simple white mosaics, others geometrical and colored designs and some have original figurative pictures of which only few traces are preserved. The building was completely destroyed at the beginning of the fifth century C.E. Above its ruins, several installation, most probably used as part of a glass industry during the fifth century C.E. were uncovered in previous seasons as well as during this year. By the end of the fifth century or early sixth century C.E. a church was constructed above the earlier remains of which only foundation are visible today.

A row of several rooms was unearthed north of the Orpheus building and adjacent to the decumanos. These rooms, rectangular in shape, served as shops which were open to the street. Shops were usually constructed along the colonaded streets, the main thoroughfares which served as the city market, the focus of economic life in Roman cities.

City Wall (Area 76.2)

Area 76.2, located on a slope, between the hilltop and the lower city of ancient Zippori, was expanded this year to the west. This area was originally opened in order to examine whether the decumanos, which runs across the lower city and leads towards the upper part of the city, continues on the hill. Although the remains in this area do not provide any answer to the above question, it yields the most interesting find of our current season. The remains of the city wall constructed during the first revolt against the Romans in 67 C.E. were uncovered for the first time in this area. This wall was built, as mentioned by Josephus Flavius, by the people of Zippori, who were wealthy enough to cover the building expenses on their own (War, 2.574). The uncovered section of the wall which runs in a north-south axis and follows the topographical line of the hill slope, measures some 15 meters long, 2.6 m. wide and over 4 m. high. It is expected that more of the wall will be uncovered in the future excavations season. Zippori, unlike the rest of the Galilian cities ultimately did not join the Jewish revolt, but rather opened its gates to the Romans. As a result, the city did not suffer damage, and flourished during early second century and throughout the Roman and Byzantine periods.

The city wall is abuts another wall which runs on a west-east axis and is dated to the late first century B.C.E or early first century C.E. The wall, constructed of well cut stones indicated high quality building techniques. Although further excavations around the earlier wall are necessary in order to clarify the buildings plan and function, it seems that it belonged to a Herodian building constructed in Zippori during the time of Herod the Great or his son, Herod Antipas, who dwelt in Zippori during the first years of his monarchy. These finds are extremely important since it is the first time the Hebrew University team exposed buildings which are clearly dated to first century Zippori. They will definitely help in understanding the architectural appearance of ancient Zippori and its gradual development from a small town to large city during late antiquity.

Area 78.1

The third area excavated this season is located to the north of the Orpheus building, close to the parking areas of National Park (area 78.1). The continuation of some private houses excavated during the 1995 season were unearthed in this area. This year, several rooms of one unit constructed during the Roman period were exposed. This area suffers heavy destruction. Later construction complicates the stratigraphcal picture, making it difficult to draw the building's plan at the moment. Heavy collapse revealed inside the rooms, including mosaic chunks, pieces of fresco and some nails indicate that the building had a second floor. A complete ritual bath which is built strictly according to the talmudic law was unearthed in one square. This bath was in use throughout the Roman period. It includes a stepped pool, a cistern referred to in talmudic literature as the "treasure" and a pipe ("avik") that connected the two. It is the first time that a complete ritual bath was found in Zippori and it will certainly help our future study of these installations.

The Roman building ceased to be used in the fourth century. Several walls constructed with stones in secondary use above earlier remains, indicate a continual occupancy during the Byzantine period, although we can't draw the plan of this building yet. A pottery workshop unearthed in this area is the only clear unit that can be identified here. It includes two parts, a rectangular room where the potter sat and a kiln open to it. The room is paved with white plain mosaic and an open water channel surrounding its west and south sides. The kiln is oval and the oven, where traces of ashes were found, is preserved to its north.

Area 68.1

The eastern sections of the decumanos were excavated in the eastern most area of our excavations, in previous seasons. The task in this season was to obtain more information regarding the building constructed adjacent to the main road. Several squares were laid to the south of the decumaos in which the beginning of a well-built structure dated to the Roman period was uncovered. Some of the building's elements may be connected with a channel, possibly part of the water system supplying the city with water.

Area 67.2

Area 67.2 is located south of the previous one, east of the Nile building dated to the Byzantine period. The continuation of the Roman building excavated last year was unearthed this year. Analyzing the finds of both this year and previous seasons, it seems that we unearthed a peristyle building. It includes a courtyard surrounded by columns in its center and various rooms around it. Some rooms were paved with mosaics and others with plaster floors. The mosaics include simple geometric designs which are partially destroyed. In one room we found evidence for lining the wall with marble, indicating its importance in the building. This type of building resembles other houses excavated at the site, reflecting private architecture at its best during the second and third centuries C. E. The building seems to have gone out of use during the Byzantine period. Later construction above the ruined house, which are very fragmentary, are dated to the late Byzantine or early Arab period.

Back to main Homepage

Last update: 01/01/01