Horvat Kur

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Dates Excavated:



Jürgen Zangenberg, Stefan Münger, Raimo Hakola, and Byron McCane (Kinneret Regional Project)

Archaeological Information: Area A

Date of Building Construction:

Phase I: Beginning of 350-450 CE-range (Synagogue IA)[893]
Phase II:
 End of 350-450 CE-range (Synagogue IB)
Phase III: Ca. 450-500 (Synagogue IIA)[894]
Phase IV: Ca. 500-600 (Synagogue IIB)
Phase V: Ca. 600-650 (Synagogue IIC)

Place of Building in Settlement:
At the top of the hill, on the northeastern edge of the settlement.[895]

Building Description:
Phase I (= Synagogue IA): The building was a more-or-less square synagogue (10 m X 11 m), on the north side built on top of an old terrace wall. The main entrance was probably located in the south wall. A narrow door connected the main hall with a row of two or three rooms running along the eastern edge of the plateau and another door gave access to a northern room. The roof was supported by four internal columns. The synagogue’s floor was covered with a simple, greyish-white plaster. Phase II (= Synagogue IB): In this phase, the row of secondary rooms outside the eastern synagogue wall was (partly) demolished in order to allow the expansion of nearby domestic structure. In the north-eastern most corner of the building, the Synagogue IA walls are also demolished down to the foundation levels and a large courtyard is created there instead. The original floor was raised by laying out a thick mosaic floor including a supporting plaster bedding. Remains of this mosaic floor have been partly preserved in situ in the southeastern corner of the building, showing a menorah and inscription. Around 450 CE Synagogue IB was severely damaged or almost entirely demolished. Phase III (= Synagogue IIA): Synagogue IIA represents a new building, though it kept some continuity with its predecessor by using the same location and some previous architectural features. Synagogue II was now broader than long, measuring ca. 16.5 m east-west (instead of ca. 10 m) by ca. 11 m north-south. The hall was divided into a wide nave and two narrow aisles separated by four columns on each side. The northern room was now abandoned and the entrance closed. The synagogue had an entrance with a double-leaf door from the west and a smaller, single leaf door from the south. The south entrance is not in the middle of the wall, but slightly to the west, probably because of the ornate, elevated square platform built against the southern wall, which functioned as the synagogue’s bemah. [896] This bemah was square, measuring ca. 3 x 3 m and possibly 80 cm high. A narrow flight of stone steps descended from the northern side of the platform and connected it to the floor of the nave. A low entrance from the east offered access to a low inner chamber. Internally, almost the entire mosaic floor was demolished and a new, greyish plaster floor plaster was put in. A low bench of basalt stones ran along the inside of all four walls. Phase IV (= Synagogue IIB): The eastern section of the northern wall was rebuilt after some damage. A portico was also added to the western side of the building. The Synagogue IIA-bemah seems to have collapsed and only been partly rebuilt: the interior room was rebuilt as solid platform by filling the previous interior room up with flagstones taken from Synagogue IIA. In addition to the rearrangement of the bemah, the entire floor was repaired with a new, thick layer of plaster. Phase V (= Synagogue IIC): Probably in this phase a staircase was constructed against the outside of the southern wall, possibly leading to a wooden gallery above the synagogue's eastern aisle. Benches were now also inserted between the columns that separated both aisles from the nave, very likely to extend available seating space provided by already existing benches along the walls. One of the stones added as such a bench is the “Horvat Kur table”. [897] The entire floor of the eastern aisle was also raised by adding a stone paving layer. Last, another single, undecorated seat was plastered on top of the southern bench just west of the entrance, with a footstool on the floor right in front of it. This has been interpreted as a Seat of Moses.

Maps and Plans

First Deposit

Date Excavated: 2008-2013

Deposit Location:

In the western portico of the synagogue, but probably originally underneath the mosaic floor of the synagogue hall

Archaeological Information:

The coins were scattered over two soil layers on top of each other. The top layer contains L 7024, 7033, 7051, 7079, 7090, 7105, 7136, 7149, 7156, and 7353 (also known as the “coin-layer”). The layer underneath contains Loci 7024, 7033, 7081, 7098, 7109, 7144, 7150, 7157, 7170, 7211, and 7353 (also known as the “tesserae-layer”).

Certain association with the building itself? Yes

Deposit Retrievable? No

Deposit Type: IB6

Deposit Description:

To the west of western wall W7018 stood a portico, bounded by wall W7018 to the east, wall W7073 to the west, terrace wall W7114 to the north, and a single-faced retaining wall W7148 to the south.[898] Inside the portico were three distinct layers of artificial fill: a lower brownish-gray layer placed on top of a thin, natural layer of reddish brown soil directly above bedrock with a gray layer containing large fieldstones spread evenly across the area to raise the surface;[899] an intermediate, hard, grayish layer of 5-10 cm containing much plaster, 87 coins, and 15971 tesserae ( = the “tesserae layer”); and an upper, soft, brownish layer of circa 5 cm covered with flat-lying cobbles, containing 9249 tesserae and 752 coins (= the “coin layer”).[900] According to the excavators, the large quantity of crude fieldstones, the thousands of single tesserae, the plaster chunks, and the plaster-coated potsherds in the two upper layers point to these layers being construction debris, dumped in the portico to form a new floor level. The debris and coins could have originated from two possible sources: following one theory, the coins were originally placed inside the synagogue hall (presumably under the mosaic floor) and ended up in the portico as a secondary deposit when the mosaic floor was replaced and thrown out. Since most of the coins were found in the brown, upper layer above the grey layer containing most of the tesserae pieces, the excavators theorize a so-called reverse stratigraphy in the portico of the original make-up of the mosaic floor.[901] However, it could also be that the coins were brought in deliberately to make the foundation of the portico.[902] In that case, they were never under the floor of the synagogue hall.

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:
The coins have been preliminarily studied by Patrick Wyssmann but have not been published yet. At the end of each summer campaign, all coins were brought to the IAA for safe storage. When the synagogue excavations ended in 2018, the IAA made plans to re-study the coins for their own database registry, as is customary practice. However, by mid-2021, partly because of the coronavirus-pandemic, the coins had not been re-evaluated yet. Thus, the information on the coins found in this database are Wyssmann’s interpretations.
The Horvat Kur Deposit 1 group contains 839 coins: 43 from L7024, 1 from L7033, 199 from L7051, 62 from L7079, 25 from L7081, 20 from L7090, 10 from L7098, 172 from L7105, 5 from L7109, 3 from L7136, 1 from L7144, 7 from L7149, 6 from L7150, 261 from L7156, 7 from L7157, (0 from L7170), 5 from L7211, and 12 from L7353. The coins range from 209 CE (Septimius Severus) to 527-565 CE (Justinian I), although only 361 coins could be dated (or 43% of the total).[903] The largest concentration dates to the 4th quarter of the 4th century and the first quarter of the 5th century, or the early Byzantine period (308 out of the 361 coins): Of the 195 of which an emperor could be established, 60 can be attributed to Arcadius (31%), 54 to Theodosius I (28%), and 22 to Honorius (11%). Notable are the high concentration of SALVS REIPVBLICAE coins. Most coins were minted in Antioch or Constantinople, but 1 coin was minted in Caesarea (Diadumenian, 217-218 CE)[904], 1 in Heraclea (Gratian, 383 CE), 1 in Lugdunum (Valentinian II, 375-383 CE), and 7 in Rome (including one of Flavius Victor, 388-397 CE, the only coin of this western emperor found in a synagogue deposit). Among the deposit were also 5 blank flans, 11 possible barbaric imitations, and one possible Vandalic coin. One coin showed a countermark: the only dupondius in the deposit. As for denominations, of the 212 coins that could be identified, there were 194 nummi (minimi), three folles, two 40 nummi, two Antoniniani (one of Claudius II Gothicus and one of Probus), a denarius (of Septimius Severus), and a dupondius. The latest coin in the group, the 40 nummi coin of Justinian I (527-565 CE), was pierced with a hole.[905]

Other Images

Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table Horvat Kur, Deposit 1. This table can be seen in full screen by clicking the icon on the bottom right. For more details on the specific coins in each row, please hover over the numbers.

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Second Deposit

Date Excavated: 2012

Deposit Location:

Inside the bemah

Archaeological Information:

In the upper floor level of the bemah (L7278) and its cobblestone foundation (L7604 and L7605) and inside two pits in the floor of the bemah: L7247, and L7259 and L7555.

Certain association with the building itself? Yes

Deposit Retrievable? Yes

Deposit Type: IA2

Deposit Description:

The bemah seems to have gone through several phases of construction, but as a whole it is a square, limestone installation demarcated by W7134 on the south, W7112 on the west, W7226 on the north, and a monumental threshold stone 7200 and wall W7138 on the east, forming a square room of circa 3.5 meters on each side. [906] Within this enclosure was a matrix of firmly packed, light brown soil with many cobbles and bigger stones, chunks of plaster, and some architectural fragments. The space inside the bemah was made smaller through the placement of worked, basalt stones against the inner walls at different levels. The excavators suggest they functioned as benches or shelves inside the space as they only rise around 21 cm above the upper floor level of the bemah. Remains of at least two floor levels were discovered: L7278 was a neatly constructed upper floor made of rectangular basalt and limestone pavers. Between these pavers two coins were discovered. The cobblestone foundation of this floor contained another 7 coins (L7604 and L7605). The pavement floor was broken in two places. In the southwestern corner the pavement was missing and excavation revealed a firmly packed, reddish brown clay layer, L7247, containing Roman and Byzantine pottery, four coins, and a bronze oil lamp of the Roman period. In the northeast corner, the missing paver revealed another pit containing layers L7259, L7289, and L7555, which contained 27, 0, and 5 bronze coins respectively. Underneath the cobblestone foundation layer, remains of another, lower floor were discovered: another surface of neatly worked pavers (L7305) covering a smaller surface area than the upper floor level.

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:
The bemah of Horvat Kur contained 45 bronze coins, ranging from 351-361 CE (a FEL TEMP REPARATIO coin) to 476-491 CE (Zeno). Very few coins could be fully identified, with only two coins attributed to Arcadius, two to Valentinian II, one to Zeno, one to Marcian, and one to Theodosius I. However, those that can be identified show similarities to the coins found in the portico area. In this group, one coin was minted in Alexandria and one in Constantinople. The deposit might have also contained one prutah, one Persian coin, and one imitation coin.

Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table Horvat Kur, Deposit 2. This table can be seen in full screen by clicking the icon on the bottom right. For more details on the specific coins in each row, please hover over the numbers.

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Third Deposit

Date Excavated: 2012-2013

Deposit Location:

Under and around stone blocks that make up a stylobate bench

Archaeological Information:

The coins were found in the destruction debris around the eastern stylobate bench (L7237, L7246, and L7403), under the decorated basalt “Horvat Kur table”-stone of the eastern stylobate bench (L7317), and south of the Horvat Kur table, underneath another stone of the stylobate bench and just next to a lead vessel, L7422.

Certain association with the building itself? Yes

Deposit Retrievable? No

Deposit Type: IIB5

Deposit Description:

 In 2012, square AE 29 was opened to expose the northeast end of the synagogue. It was dug from top soil down to the plaster floor and contained destruction fill, packed with stones of all sizes, plaster chunks, and Middle Roman to Byzantine pottery. In this matrix, three well-preserved Byzantine gold coins were discovered, dating to Justin II and Tiberius II (in L7237 and L7246). On the east side of this square AE 29, a north-south stylobate bench was discovered, consisting of large, rectangular blocks (W7290). One of the stones of the bench was clearly in secondary use, as it was decorated on all four sides, of which two were hidden when placed in the line of the wall. The stone has four feet and a worked top side and was dubbed the “Horvat Kur stone table.”[907] In 2013, the stone was lifted, exposing two layers of plaster below it.[908] The table rested on the lower plaster floor, and a later plaster floor sloped up to it, partly covering its feet. Two gold coins, one of Justin II and one of Tiberius II, were found between the lower plaster layer and the basalt table (Locus 7317). Another gold coin was excavated to the east of the table during that season, in L7403, and probably belonged to the same deposit.[909] The stone to the south of the table (which was also decorated) was lifted and revealed a lead vessel without a lid, and next to it the last two gold coins of Justin II and Marcus Tiberius (Locus 7422). All these coins probably belonged to the same deposit, hidden under the secondary eastern stylobate bench.[910]

Container Present? Yes: lead vessel without lid

Description of Coins:
All eight coins were minted in Constantinople: two solidi of Justin II dated 565-578 CE and three dated 567-578 CE, one solidus of Maurice (Tiberius) dated 586-584 CE, and two tremisses of Tiberius II Constantine dated to 578 CE and later. Two of the later coins of Justin II are identical and were minted in the same officina (Θ), and so are the two coins of Tiberius II Constantine. One tremissis shows cut marks on both sides. The coins are significantly younger than the coins found both in the portico and the bemah of the synagogue, contributing to the idea that this bench, and the “Horvat Kur stone” were installed later.


Other Images

Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table Horvat Kur, Deposit 3. This table can be seen in full screen by clicking the icon on the bottom right. For more details on the specific coins in each row, please hover over the numbers.

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– Zangenberg J, and Münger S., 2011, “Horbat Kur preliminary report 2010,” in: Hadashot Arkheologiyot-Excavations and Surveys in Israel, Vol. 123
– Zangenberg J., 2013, “Horbat Kur preliminary report 2011,” in: Hadashot Arkheologiyot-Excavations and Surveys in Israel, Vol. 125
– Zangenberg J., Münger S. and McCane B., 2013, “The Kinneret Regional Project Excavations of a Byzantine Synagogue at Horvat Kur, Galilee, 2010–2013: A Preliminary Report,” in: Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 557-576
– Zangenberg J., Münger S. and Rassalle T., 2013,“Synagoge van Horvat Kur geeft steeds meer geheimen bloot,” in: Archeologiemagazine, Vol. 1/2013, pp. 40–43
– Wyssmann P., 2013, “Ein Münzdeposit aus einer spätantiken Synagoge in Galiläa,” in: Welt und Umwelt der Bibel, Vol. 2/2013, pp. 60–61
– Neumann F. et al., 2014, “Galilee Blooming: First Palynological and Archaeological Data from an Early Byzantine Cistern at Horvat Kur,” in: Environmental Archaeology, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 39–54
– Ahipaz N., 2015, The Custom of the Ritual Burial of Coins in Synagogues, MA thesis, pp. 67-68 (Hebrew)
– Aviam M., 2016, “Another Reading Table Base from a Galilean Synagogue: Some Comments on the Stone Table from Ḥorvat Kur,” in: J. Patrich, O. Peleg-Barkat, and E. Ben-Yosef (eds.), Arise, Walk Through the Land – Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Land of Israel in Memory of Yizhar Hirschfeld on the Tenth Anniversary of His Demise, Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, pp. 79– 82
– Zangenberg J., 2016a, “A Basalt Stone Table from the Byzantine Synagogue at Ḥorvat Kur, Galilee: Publication and Preliminary Interpretation,” in: J. Patrich, O. Peleg-Barkat, and E. Ben-Yosef (eds.), Arise, Walk Through the Land – Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Land of Israel in Memory of Yizhar Hirschfeld on the Tenth Anniversary of His Demise, Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, pp. 61-78
– Zangenberg J., 2016b, “Performing the Sacred in a Community Building: Observations from the 2010-2015 Kinneret Regional Project Excavations in the Byzantine Synagogue of Horvat Kur (Galilee),” in: J. Day et al. (eds.), Spaces in Late Antiquity Cultural, Theological and Archaeological Perspectives, London: Routledge, pp: 166-189
– Zangenberg J., Münger S. and McCane B., 2016, “Horvat Kur, Kinneret Regional Project 2012, 2013,” in: Hadashot Arkheologiyot, Excavations and Surveys in Israel, Vol. 128
– Zangenberg J., 2017, “The Menorah on the Mosaic Floor from the Late Roman/ Early Byzantine Synagogue at Horvat Kur,” in: Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 67, pp. 110-126
– Zangenberg J., 2019, “Will the Real Women Please Sit Down. Interior Space, Seating Arrangements, and Female Presence in the Byzantine Synagogue of Horvat Kur in Galilee,” in: Gender and Social Norms in Ancient Israel, Early Judaism and Early Christianity: Texts and Material Culture, Vol. 28, pp. 91-118
– Zangenberg J., 2019, “New Observations on the ‘Basalt Stone Table’ from Horvat Kur, Galilee,” in: Strata: Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, Vol. 37, pp. 95-111


– Kinneret Regional Project:
– Academy of Finland, Centre for Excellence:
– The Bornblum Eretz Israel Synagogues Website:
– ASOR Blog and Video:


[893] As the field supervisor on this site, I am part of the staff working on the final publication. Much of the information on the building and the coin deposits provided here has not been published yet and is provided by me with permission from the directors Jürgen Zangenberg, Stefan Münger, Raimo Hakola, and Byron McCane, and from numismatist Patrick Wyssmann. The reconstruction of the building is based on Zangenberg, Rheeder, and Bes forthcoming.

[894] Zangenberg, Rheeder, and Bes forthcoming state that “Often, these changes [to the building] were only local and are difficult to exactly pinpoint chronologically, and therefore not easy to combine into coherent “periods”. The use of labels like “IIA,” “IIB” and “IIC” proposed here, therefore, is tentative at best.”

[895] A map by Gottlieb Schumacher from 1888 describes the site of Horvat Kur as a ruin. The site was also visited by Victor Guérin (1868-1880), the surveyors Condor and Kitchener in 1881, Bezalel Rabbani in the 1950s, and Gideon Foerster and Zvi Ilan in the 1980s who identified this area as occupied by a synagogue (Ilan 1986, pp. 35-37).

[896] Zangenberg et al. 2013; Tervahauta 2021, pp. 318-321.

[897] Zangenberg J. 2016a; Aviam 2016; Zangenberg 2019b.

[898] Zangenberg 2013a.

[899] In this lower layer, Loci 7026, 7027, 7088, 7125, 7153, 7162, 7175, 7190, 7212, 7222, and 7353, another 21 coins were discovered. Some of these coins possibly belong to the portico deposit and over time made their way down to the lower layer but have been excluded here since they are separated from the two upper layers by the bed of cobblestones.

[900] Zangenberg 2013a; Zangenberg et al. 2013; and unpublished reports. Finally, the surface of the upper layer was beaten hard and strengthened with cobbles to create a new walking surface that connected the western entrance of the synagogue with the threshold of the portico.

[901] Zangenberg 2013a; Zangenberg et al. 2013. Ahipaz and Leibner incorrectly state that many coins were covered in plaster, attesting to the theory that they came from the plaster foundation of the hall mosaic (Ahipaz and Leibner 2021, p. 221). This is not accurate: they were mixed with the plaster from the mosaic, but were not coated with it, giving no evidence that they were originally embedded in the mosaic floor.

[902] To make the magical building material? This would also explain the Justinian I coin, which is dated to the 6th century and could thus not have come from under the mosaic floor.

[903] Wyssmann dates the deposit starting in 203 CE, but this is based on a Geta coin found in L7125: a locus in the fieldstone layer just above bedrock and thus below our “tesserae layer” (Wyssmann 2013, p. 60).

[904] The only other coin of Diadumenian from a synagogue deposit was found at ‘En Gedi.

[905] Earlier, preliminary reports state that two Justinian coins were found in the portico (Zangenberg et al. 2013), but only one could be found in the final report provided to me by Patrick Wyssmann.

[906] Unpublished reports based on interpretations by Ulla Tervahauta. Data provided by project architect Annalize Rheeder.

[907] For more information on this stone, see Zangenberg 2016a; Aviam 2016; Zangenberg 2019b.

[908] Zangenberg et al. 2016.

[909] This coin was not stuck in the plaster but was just lying there. Might these scattered coins be evidence of stone robbers in the early Islamic (based on an early Islamic coin found in the vicinity) or Mediaeval period (based on scattered pieces of Crusader glazed pottery in the vicinity), removing a gold deposit but forgetting some? Are these the only remains of what used to be a much larger deposit?

[910] Zangenberg et al. 2013, p. 11.