woensdag 25 april 2012

Where in God`s name are we!?!

Hi everyone,

The Dutch volunteers for KRP 2012 met yesterday to discuss the various tasks that require performing and to determine who is going to be responsible for which task. We also talked about what to look out for when you`re going somewhere. Therefore I thought it would be a good idea to give a more accurate picture of where we are exactly on the map, even though that may seem contradictory to the title of this blog.
The Galilee is a region with a relatively high density of archaeological sites, not to mention all the religious tales that are usually connected to the area, so it is good to have a some idea of where we are in relation to the rest of the area. I`ve included a rudimentary map for easy reference. For those that have already been on excavation in previous years, this entry may be a little boring.

A map of the area, with indications by yours truly.
Let`s start off with the city of Tiberias: easily the biggest thing in the region. Since most of the goods and services modern humans require for their daily lives are to be found here, it serves as an easy reference point with regard to anything in the surrounding area.  “How far is it from Tiberias?” will garner the most understanding from the locals if you want to know where something is. Apart from that, there is the ancient part of Tiberias which has been excavated: Hammat Tiberias. The remains of various ancient buildings have been found here, among which is a synagogue with a rather nice floor mosaic. Since ancient times, Tiberias has been known for its hot springs and even today, the main business of the town is to support people who want to kick back and relax on the shore of the lake.

Somewhat to the north of Tiberias lies Migdal Junction, which can take you either around the lake or further west into the country. Right next to the junction is the town of Migdal itself, which historically figures both in the Jewish and the Christian tradition respectively as the site where Josephus organized his defence against the Romans and the city were Mary Magdalene was from. In anticipation of construction work, a new excavation was carried out recently under the direction of Dina Avshalom-Gorni. The result was a very intriguing synagogue (commonly dated to the 1st century CE) in which was found a stone block adorned with reliefs. One of those is a seven-branched menorah. In the words of miss Avshalom-Gorni herself: “…a unique find.”

The next place you run into when going further north, is the Karei Deshe guesthouse. This guesthouse lies right on the shore of the sea of Galilee and is quite good by Israeli standards (if you`ve ever been to a youth hostel in Haifa, you know what I`m talking about). Renowned (ahem) for its chicken and its wonderful view of Tiberias at night, a wide variety of people spend one or two nights at the guest house.
Its main significance is that this is where the volunteers and the staff stay for their four weeks of field work. During that time it effectively becomes KRP`s base of operations: it houses the excavation crew, the field lab (where all the finds are analyzed and prepped for storage) a number of conference rooms repurposed for lecturing and last but not least the staff, who go the extra mile for us.
Although not within the scope of the excavations, right next door to Karei Deshe are the remains of an Umayyad palace: Horvat Minye. The ruins make an interesting place to walk through for an hour or so, especially since there are quite a few architectural remains there.
The gatehouse of Horvat Minye. The surrounding area is more accessible than the site itself
Further north lies Tabgha and more specifically the “Bread and Fish” church (Church of the Multiplication) as well as the “Pilgerhaus” (pilgrim`s house). This is believed to be the place where in the Christian tradition the miracle of the loaves and the fishes took place. On the site stands a church the origins of which date from the 4th century CE. The present building is from the 1980`s but the mosaics inside are significantly older, dating from the 5th century CE.
Tabgha was the place where the excavation team had their nine o`clock breakfast during the Tel Kinrot excavation (more on the daily routine of digging to follow later).

The most famous of the famous: the bread and fish mosaic.
I have mentioned before that Tel Kinrot is a Bronze/Iron age site (though habitation can be traced from the chalcolithic all the way to the Ottoman period) close to Tabgha. On this steep ridge, the remains of several ancient cities lie stacked upon each other. However, the highest density of remains is from the early Iron age, marking this as its heyday. The site has tentatively been identified with the city in Kinneret, which is mentioned in the bible in a list of fortified towns. The site has yielded huge amounts of pottery as well as some very unique finds, the most famous one being the Lion Bowl. This artefact, made from Egyptian blue, is now curated by the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA).

Somewhat to the north of Tel Kinrot and Tabgha lies Capernaum. This archaeological site boasts the remains of a 5th century octagonal church in the place where Peter the apostle is supposed to have lived, although not everyone is certain that the ruins can be explained as such. Presently, a modern octagonal Church built by the Franciscans is suspended over the remains. The other main attraction at Capernaum is the huge synagogue building which in ancient times was just one block away. The building is commonly dated to the 4th century and is significant both because of its grand architecture and because it is among the oldest synagogues in the world.

The Capernaum synagogue is quite impressive.
Finally, there is the current dig site at Horvat Kur. In 2007 a survey was held to see if the site really was worth the effort of excavation. The survey results proved fruitful and since then, KRP has been busy doing excavation work. The discovery of a door sill brought the survey team on the path of a large building. Since this building seems to have had a public function, most attention has recently been on this area. Exciting as this all may seem, in order for the goals of the excavation to be achieved, several other areas on the site will have to be dug extensively as well during future seasons.

So that is where we are: slightly out of the way, but not out of reach of the civilized world, right smack in the middle of an area which for many people has deep religious as well as historical links. Even if that doesn`t move you, the lake and its surrounding hills are a place of stunning natural beauty. Ah well, two more months….

Signing off,

The Lost Dutchman

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