TEL AVIV (Aug. 13)
Activities by ultra-Orthodox zealots to disrupt archaeological digs in Caesarea have diverted attention from significant finds unearthed at other digging sites throughout Israel this season.
They included a unique 1,800-year-old mosaic floor uncovered two weeks ago at Tsipori, in lower Galilee, and the ruins of a Bronze Age port dating back 5,000 years at Tel Rami, south of Atlit.
The six-by-five-meter floor at Tsipori, once the most important city of Galilee, seat of the Roman governors and a major Jewish center where the Sanhedrin officiated after the destruction of the Second Temple, shows an almost lifesize portrait of a beautiful young woman and of 15 Greek gods, including Dionysus, all named in Greek.
A RARE FIND
The pictures are picked out in tiny colored mosaic stones, with the young woman’s cheeks in four shades from flesh color to rouge. The gods are depicted in motion, regarded as rare for ancient mosaics.
The archaeologists, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Duke University of North Carolina, believe the portrait may have been of a woman guest of the governor who was entertained in this very room which, from its size and position, may have been the Roman governor’s reception hall.
Tsipori was the home of Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, who compiled and edited the Mishnah, second only to the Pentateuch in Jewish holy writ, for the last 17 years of his life, at the beginning of the Third Century.
OLDEST KNOWN PORT CITY UNCOVERED
The third season of digging at Tel Rami brought to light Israel’s oldest known port city, dating back 5,000 years.
Excavated by a Haifa University team aided by researchers and students from the U.S. and Europe, this year’s work turned up a wide range of stone and clay tools, jewelry and weapons “showing that in the late Bronze Age Tel Rami was an important sea traffic station,” according to Dr. Michal Artzi, head of the university’s maritime civilizations department.
This season’s important finds here included a storehouse dating from 3000 BCE, the first of its kind found in the country, as well as a sewage system.
Archaeologists in Ashkelon uncovered a large dog cemetery and what appeared to have been a Philistine brothel, with erotic wall decorations.
The Atra Kadisha Jewish cemetery protection association which halted the Caesarea dig apparently decided that work at these three sites did not endanger Jewish graves, and the researchers were not molested there.