Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sepphoris - 5/10/11

hi everyone. there is no doubt that today i carried way too many heavy stones and buckets of dirt. my bones tell me it is time for rest.

we did exploratory probes in three specific areas today. as i think i have mentioned, eric and carol meyers have been excavating here at sepphoris since 1985. by some coincidence i was here with them that season for i think five or six weeks, together with ben (then 10) and sarah (then 13), and jeannie joined us for a couple of weeks. at that time it was a big and dirty hill with an old building atop it. now the building (oldest parts date to roman times, but mostly crusader (shown in picture)....) is a museum, and several parts of ancient cities have been exposed. eric and carol and their graduate students are preparing the excavation material since 1995 for publication and there are a number of stratigraphic/chronological questions that needed to be revisited, along with verifications of measurements, elevations. etc.

sepphoris was a very important city in the ancient world. rabbi yehudah ha'nasi, editor of the talmud, lived here for the final 17 years of his life and much of the editing took place here. also this was the original capital of herod the great's son antipas. finally, since jesus grew up so nearby in nazareth, he probably construction work during the building of this city and he may have been exposed to greek theatre here...there is a first century amphitheater here that was excavated in the early 1900s by the university of michigan (shown in picture).

today we removed an area of a cobble-stone floor--pretty big stones--about a meter square. this was thought to have been built in the late roman or byzantine period and we were examining the dirt under the floor to see what it might reveal. after sifting 20 or so buckets of dirt, revealing very few identifiable potshards, i spotted a large silver coin from the umayyad period, around 630 AD. this discovery has altered the dating of this particular structure, pushing it later than previously thought, since the floor must have been laid some time after the coin found its way into the deposit.

in another area, thought to date to around 1st century BCE to 1st century CE we found another coin which was quite encrusted but almost certainly a coin minted in ashkelon in that exact date range.

the weather here is remarkably mild and it was actually cool in the shade when we took our 11 am break, although it was quite hot in the sun. right now it's probably 50 degrees (sun has set) and downright chilly.

today was israel independence today and there were busloads of tourists walking around the park and exclaiming about the "real" archaeologists they saw huffing and puffing with the stones.

here is another interesting note about field archaeology. it is very definitely NOT a treasure hunt. for example, there was one area of a floor that was being considered as a possible area to explore. the metal detector (which has been quite accurate) indicated at least six coins or similar bronze objects within five to six inches of the surface. but because of the overall layout and understanding of the site, it was decided it was not necessary to disturb that area. one part of modern archaeological method is whenever possible to leave in place some , for future study.

tomorrow we will work in the morning and take a field trip to beit shean, the ancient nysa-scythopolis, in the afternoon. jeannie, zinger, ali, ben, chrissy, and i all visited the site on our recent visit, so it is fresh in mind, but it is a huge and interesting ruin and i look forward to seeing it again.

stay tuned....d

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