Ancient Roman Ruins Discovered in Jewish Capital

Roman temple ruins from the 2nd century A.D. have emerged from excavations at the ancient Jewish capital of the Galilee in Israel.

The discovery shows that the city of Zippori housed a significant pagan population which built a temple in the city center during the Roman period. The central location of the temple lies within a walled courtyard, and may help archaeologists better understand the urban layout of Zippori in the Roman era.

A church from the later Byzantine period sits on top of the ancient temple, as revealed by the Noam Shudofsky Zippori Expedition headed by Zeev Weiss of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The building of the church on the foundation of the temple testifies to the preservation of the sacred section of the city over time. The new finding not only sheds light the religious life, culture and society in Roman and Byzantine Zippori, but also indicates that Jews, pagans and later Christians lived together and developed their hometown with various buildings.

The newly discovered temple is located south of the decumanus, or colonnaded street, that ran from east to west and was the main thoroughfare in the city during the Roman through Byzantine period. The temple, measuring approximately 79 by 39 feet (24 by 12 meters), was built with a decorated façade facing the street. The temple's walls were plundered in ancient times and only its foundations remain.

No evidence has been found that reveals the nature of the temple's rituals, but some coins dating from the time of Antoninus Pius, minted in Diocaesarea (Zippori), depict a temple to the Roman gods Zeus and Tyche. The temple ceased to function at an unknown date, and a large church, the remains of which were uncovered by the Hebrew University excavation team in previous seasons, was built over it in the Byzantine period.

North of the decumanus, opposite the temple, a monumental building was partially excavated this summer. Its role is still unclear, although its nature and size indicate that it was an important building. A courtyard with a well-preserved stone pavement of smooth rectangular slabs executed in high quality was uncovered in the center of the building, upon which were found a pile of collapsed columns and capitals, probably as a result of an earthquake. The decoration on these architectural elements was executed in stucco.

Beyond a row of columns, an adjacent aisle and additional rooms were discovered. Two of them were decorated with colorful, geometrical mosaics.

Live Science Staff
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