Controversy and a Digestive Amulet
Mark University’s Dig at Hippos-Sussita
The sixth season of the archeological excavation at Hippos-Sussita
in northern Israel produced several surprises for the University’s
archeologists. One was a lintel—did it belong to a synagogue or a
The find of a lintel bearing Jewish symbols that typified synagogues
led to the initial conclusion that the public building being
uncovered in the south-western residential quarter of Sussita was a
synagogue. Jewish sources had indicated its very existence in this
predominantly Greek city.
The archeologists were quick to discover, however, that it was
actually a church. Prof. Arthur Segal, who heads the University's
Zinman Institute of Archeology and who leads the Sussita Project,
offered two possible explanations. One is that the structure could
have served first as a synagogue and later been turned into a
church. Second, the synagogue could have existed in close proximity
to the church. Following the destruction of the former, the lintel
was reused in the church.
The sixth season of excavations at Sussita have come to an end, and
so Segal hopes the riddle will be solved in the seventh season in
the summer of 2006.
The "digestive" cameo that was found hidden in one of the recently
exposed rooms built along the southern wall of the North-East Church
is actually an amulet. This good luck charm assures its wearer that
he or she will have no stomach problems and easy digestion of food.
The medallion, made of hematite (a semi-precious black stone) set in
a gold frame, is beautifully executed, according to Segal. It has a
Greek word engraved in its center - "Digest!"
As in previous seasons, two foreign teams joined the University in
this season's dig. One team was from Concordia University in St.
Paul, Minnesota, and the other from the Polish Academy of Sciences
in Warsaw. Excavation work concentrated in the city center, mainly
around the Forum. This summer, for the first time, the work expanded
to the south-west segment of Hippos-Sussita, which was the city's
main residential quarter.
This season, the archaeologists began to uncover a colonnaded
street. Luckily enough, they managed after just a few days work to
expose the two lower sections of a decorative gate. The likes of
these, Segal exclaimed, have never before been exposed in any Roman
city in Israel. The decorative gate signified the passageway from
the more than four-meter-wide colonnaded street to the Forum.
Another find, this one from the north-west church area, is the
fragment of a frieze in the Doric style of architecture, dating to
the Hellenistic Era (2nd century BCE). It is one of the earliest
architectural fragments of this kind ever unearthed in Israel. Segal
surmised it must have belonged to the Hellenistic temple that stood
in the very place where, hundreds of years later, a Byzantine church
The archeologist says that the Hellenistic temple rose to a height
of 16 meters, a calculation based on the dimensions of an
architectural fragment found reused in the walls of the Byzantine
church. A smaller Roman temple, dating to the late 1st century BCE
or beginning of the 1st century CE, was built over the remains of
the Hellenistic one. A complete wine-press, located in a bloc of
rooms, was also found just north of the north-west Church itself.
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Supported Academic Learning Aids Students
Synagogue/Church Controversy and a
Mark University’s Dig at Hippos-Sussita
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