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Digging Deep in the Galilee. On Promises and Pitfalls in Excavating an Ancient Synagogue

Thursday 12 May 2016
University Library
Witte Singel 27
2311 BG Leiden

‘Digging Deep in the Galilee. On Promises and Pitfalls in Excavating an Ancient Synagogue’
In the summer of 2016 Kinneret Regional Project, a consortium of the University of Bern, Helsinki University, Leiden University and Wofford College, intends to conclude the excavation of the Byzantine synagogue accidentally found in 2008 in the ancient village of Horvat Kur, Galilee. What have we learnt from six seasons of archeological fieldwork? Quite a lot! Analysis of pollen taken from sediment layers in a cistern nearby the synagogue, for example, helps us to reconstruct local environmental conditions and will later contribute to a better understanding of local climate. The architecture provides interesting insights into the central role of the local synagogue for a village community and allows us to reconstruct various aspects of everyday religious practices including the role of women. It is surprising to see Galilean Jewish villages thrive in the 5th and 6th, exactly at a time when Christianity dominated the East and apparently harsh legislation suppressed Jewish life. But life is often different at ground level: paradoxically, it was the Christian presence in Palestine that enabled Jewish communities to invest in their villages, repair frequent earthquake damage and participate in local, regional and transregional trade. Ceramics from North Africa and Cyprus, glass from the Lebanese coast, roof tiles from Western Asia Minor and the Black Sea area, as well as coins from various imperial mints found their way to our village at Horvat Kur. A strange cohabitation between Christians and Jewish villages developed, based on a common substratum of material culture and mutual benefit. After the conclusion of this year's campaign Kinneret Regional Project will take a step back, analyse the finds and prepare the publication of the synagogue, to be ready for future work in the village itself.

The paper will present some of the latest results from the excavations, give insights into student life on an excavation and reveal plans for future activities.

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