Zvi Ilan and Emanuel Damati
Archaeological Information: /
Date of Building Construction:
Phase I: end 4th century-beginning 5th century 
Phase II: early 7th century 
Place of Building in Settlement:
At the highest point of the village, on the site of a quarry, with terraced houses below. 
Phase I: (= Stage IA-IB and II) A basilica with two rows of six columns. The building had a plaster floor that at some point was overlaid with a mosaic floor (possibly in the late 5th century) and overlaid again with a flagstone floor during a renovation phase (= Stage II). The east and west walls had two tiers of benches, and by the south wall were two raised platforms. There were three entrances in the south wall, a door in the west wall leading to a storeroom, and a door in the east wall leading to an outer courtyard with a cistern. The western storeroom was four meters long with a vaulted ceiling. In front of the south entrances stood a colonnaded portico. The building was roofed with plaster and roof tiles. Under the floor of the synagogue, in the southwestern area, were six underground rooms including one with a miqveh. During the 6th century renovation phase, new benches were built on top of the old ones to accommodate the raised flagstone floor. The platforms were enlarged and a stairway was added to the western wall that led to an upper gallery. Phase II: (= Stage III) The building was shortened by moving the north wall 1.3 m in, leaving the basilica with two rows of only five columns. The entrances in the south wall were closed off and three entrances were made in the new north wall. Beyond the south wall, a room with benches and a mosaic floor was added, possibly functioning as a study house. The builders also added a “frame” around the building, ranging from 1.5 to 2 meters away from the original walls. The space in between was filled with rubble, yellowish soil, and random pieces of artifacts.
Maps and Plans
Copyright-Protected Materials (logged-in members only)
Date Excavated: 1981-1986
In the areas where the stone pavement had been raised during Stage II, under the flagstones of the main hall.
Stage II, Locus 29A (Basket 1254), Locus 167 (Basket 1729), and Locus 157 (Basket 1693).
Certain association with the building itself? Yes
Deposit Retrievable? No
Deposit Type: IB6
The excavators note in their 1989 preliminary report that underneath Stage II’s stone floor a total of 520 coins was found. 177 coins were identified from the Late Roman and Byzantine periods, including coins minted by the emperors Arcadius, Honorius, Theodosius II, and Marcian. Many of the coins were worn and, according to the excavators, of “little value.”
In other publications, however, the excavators state that the deposit consisted of a total of only 320 coins. This amount is closer to what is stored in the IAA archives as coming from three different loci: 127 legible coins from L29A, Basket 1254; 138 coins from L167, Basket 1729, and 96 coins from L157, Basket 1693, for a total of 361 coins.
Container Present? No
Description of Coins:
The excavations of the Meroth synagogue were never fully published and a coin catalogue of this site has thus never been presented. However, the IAA provided me with a full report on the coins found in the synagogue and gave me permission to include them in this dissertation project. The coins here provided have been analyzed and identified by Gabriela Bijovsky. 361 coins are associated with this deposit in the IAA database. Locus 29A (Basket 1254) yielded 127 identifiable minimi, ranging from 335 to 423 CE, most of which can be dated to the 4th century. One coin, however, is minted by Trajan and is dated to 99-100 CE, forming an anomaly in the group. Most notable, however, are 32 coins of the VIRTVS EXERCITI (1) type and 47 coins of the GLORIA ROMANORVM (15) type, which are relatively rare in Israel. Both types date to 383-392 CE, suggesting they were added as one group. Locus 167 (Basket 1729) consisted out of 138 identifiable coins, ranging from 330 to 474 CE. Two coins are earlier: a completely worn Hellenistic coin (probably Macedonian) from the third century BCE, and an autonomous Roman provincial coin from Tyre, dated 46-47 CE. Locus 157 (Basket 1693) contained 96 identifiable minimi, ranging from 341 CE to 512 CE. The latest coin is a follis of Anastasius I (507-512 CE), which provides a terminus post quem for the deposit. With the exceptions of the Trajan coin minted in Tiberias, the Roman provincial coin minted in Tyre, one coin minted in Siscia (Valentinian II, 383-392 CE), and one coin minted in Rome (Honorius, 410-423 CE), all the coins are issues of the standard eastern mints.
The excavations of the Meroth synagogue were never fully published and a coin catalogue of this site has thus never been presented. However, the IAA provided me with a full report on the coins found in the synagogue and gave me permission to include them in this dissertation project. The coins here provided have been analyzed and identified by Gabriela Bijovsky.
361 coins are associated with this deposit in the IAA database. Locus 29A (Basket 1254) yielded 127 identifiable minimi, ranging from 335 to 423 CE, most of which can be dated to the 4th century. One coin, however, is minted by Trajan and is dated to 99-100 CE, forming an anomaly in the group. Most notable, however, are 32 coins of the VIRTVS EXERCITI (1) type and 47 coins of the GLORIA ROMANORVM (15) type, which are relatively rare in Israel. Both types date to 383-392 CE, suggesting they were added as one group. Locus 167 (Basket 1729) consisted out of 138 identifiable coins, ranging from 330 to 474 CE. Two coins are earlier: a completely worn Hellenistic coin (probably Macedonian) from the third century BCE, and an autonomous Roman provincial coin from Tyre, dated 46-47 CE. Locus 157 (Basket 1693) contained 96 identifiable minimi, ranging from 341 CE to 512 CE. The latest coin is a follis of Anastasius I (507-512 CE), which provides a terminus post quem for the deposit. With the exceptions of the Trajan coin minted in Tiberias, the Roman provincial coin minted in Tyre, one coin minted in Siscia (Valentinian II, 383-392 CE), and one coin minted in Rome (Honorius, 410-423 CE), all the coins are issues of the standard eastern mints.
Conspectus table Meroth, 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.
Date Excavated: 1981-1986
In a hollowed-out stone in the western storeroom, in the northeast corner
Certain association with the building itself? Yes
Deposit Retrievable? Yes
Deposit Type: IIA4
Most of the floor stones of the western room of the synagogue were pillaged over time. However, some side stones were attached to the walls and were difficult to remove; they were found in situ by the excavators. In the northeast corner of the room lay a stone, only half of which survived, pierced by a 20 cm wide hole. This stone rested above a hollow carved in the rock, the western half of which was clogged up. In the eastern half, under the hole, was a hewn sloping tunnel, 25 cm wide and 60 cm long, which led to a niche dug at the end of the large hollow. The niche measured 35 by 37 centimeters. In this niche, 482 coins were found, mingled with dirt and sand, 237 of which were gold and the rest bronze. The distance between the top of the hole and the top of the niche was 60-95 centimeters. Thus, one would have needed some sort of ladle to remove the coins from the niche. Around the opening of the hollow, eight or nine more gold coins were found scattered around (a coin of the city of Sepphoris struck under Trajan and eight Byzantine coins), as well as a pair of bronze scales. Presumably, the hollow or tunnel originally had a stopper, and a mat or carpet could have been laid over the stone to hide the installation.
Container Present? Yes, a hollowed-out rock
Description of Coins:
Although this deposit was preliminarily studied by Kindler (1986, 1987) and described briefly by Ilan (1995) and Hachlili (2013), a detailed catalogue was never published. The IAA has been working on a full analysis, and their results have been provided to me for inclusion in this dissertation database. The coins have been evaluated by Gabriela Bijovsky.
The deposit contained 56 gold solidi, 37 gold semisses, 150 gold tremisses, 210 bronze folles, and 17 bronze half-folles, 1 bronze fals, 1 gold dinar/denarius, 1 bronze prutah, and 9 bronze unidentified coins, for a total of 482 coins. 470 of these date to the Byzantine period, with 80% produced in the 6th century. The bulk of the material ranges from 491 CE (Anastasius I) to 610 CE (Phocas), although there are a number of bronze coins that predate the Byzantine period: a prutah of Alexander Jannaeus (80-73 BCE) minted in Jerusalem, and nine Late Roman coins of the 4th century (including a Roman provincial coin of Constantine I (315-316 CE) minted in Rome, a coin of Valentinian II (383-395 CE), and a coin of Theodosius I (383-392 CE)). Two later coins are exceptional: a gold dinar of the Abbasid caliph Muhammed al-Mahdi dated to 783 CE, and an Ayyubid bronze fals Ayyubid coin of al-‘Aziz ‘Uthman dated to 1193-1198 CE, minted in Damascus. The inclusion of these later coins is intriguing. The excavators suggested that perhaps the stone was still in use during the early Islamic period and that these coins are the only remnants of a larger stash of Abbasid and Umayyad coins that were removed. Or, the coins scattered around the stone are an indication that there was a hasty attempt to retrieve the coins during an emergency in the late 8th or 9th century but the local population only managed to take out the upper part of the deposit. This, however, would not explain the late 12th century coin. Bijovsky therefore calls them later intrusions. For now, these two later coins remain an enigma.
Some of the coins contain punchmarks: these can be seen on 73 folles (1/3 of total) and 8 half-folles (1/2 of total), all attributed to Anastasius I. These figures suggest the popularity of this practice but are not a consistent feature of all the coins. The last exceptional coin in the deposit is a solidus attributed to the Rebellion of the Heraclii, minted at an unknown eastern mint. Emperor Phocas’ unpopular reign ended in 610 during a revolt instigated by Heraclius the Elder, which started in Carthage in 608 CE and soon spread to Palestine. Using North Africa as a base, the rebels managed to overthrow Phocas, beginning the Heraclian dynasty, which ruled Byzantium for a century. During this revolt, the rebels started minting their own series of gold, silver, and bronze coinage. This coin is the only one that has been found so far in Israel and is extremely rare.
Interestingly, this deposit contains almost no minimi, in contrast to the deposit found under the synagogue’s floor. The chronology of the coins also only starts at the point that the floor deposit ends. In other words, the floor deposit is older than the hollowed stone deposit and is of an entirely different make-up.
Conspectus table Meroth, 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.
– Ilan Z. and Damati E., 1985, “Merot,” in: Hadashot Arkheologiot, Vol. 86, p. 8 (Hebrew)
– Kindler A., 1986, “The Synagogue Treasure of Meroth, Eastern Upper Galilee, Israel,” in: Proceedings of the 10th International Congress of Numismatics, London, Association Internationale des Numismates Professionnels, pp. 315-320
– Kindler A., 1987, “The Coins of the Synagogue’s Treasury,” in: Ilan Z. & Damati E. (eds.), Meroth the Ancient Jewish village. The Excavations at the Synagogue and Bet Midrash, Tel Aviv: Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, pp. 118-126 (Hebrew)
– Ilan Z., 1989, “The Synagogue and Beth Midrash of Meroth,” in: Hachlili R. (ed.), Ancient Synagogues in Israel: Third-Seventh century C.E., BAR International Series 449, Oxford, pp. 21-41
– Chen D., 1990, “Dating synagogues in Galilee: On the Evidence from Meroth and Capernaum,” in: Liber Annuus, Vol. 40, pp. 349-355 Ilan Z., 1993, “Meroth,” in: NEAEHL, pp. 1028-1031
– Ilan Z., 1995, “The Synagogue and study House at Meroth,” in: Ancient synagogues. Historical Analysis and Archaeological Discovery, Vol. 1, Leiden: Brill, pp. 256-288
– Tsafrir Y., 1995, “The Synagogues at Capernaum and Meroth and the Dating of the Galilean Synagogue,” in: Humphrey J. H. (ed.), The Roman and Byzantine Near East: some recent archaeological research, Vol. 1, Michigan: Ann Arbor, pp. 151-161
– Damati E., 2000, The Meroth Synagogue and its implication on the Chronology of Galilean Synagogues, MA Thesis (Hebrew)
– Magness J., 2001, “The Question of the Synagogue: The Problem of Typology,” in: Avery-Peck A.J. & Neusner J. (eds.) Judaism in Late Antiquity, Part Three, Volume 4: Where We Stand: Issues and Debates in Ancient Judaism, the Special Problem of the Synagogue, Leiden: Brill, pp. 1-49
– Frankel R. et al., 2001, Settlement Dynamics and Regional Diversity in Ancient Upper Galilee, Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority, p. 43
– Spigel C., 2012, Ancient Synagogue Seating Capacities: Methodology, Analysis and Limits, Mohr Siebeck, pp. 276-281
– Hachlili R., 2013, Ancient Synagogues: Archaeology and Art: New Discoveries and Current Research, Leiden: Brill, pp. 57, 69-72, 152, 170, 173-175, 231, 251, 329, 417-419, 421, 532-533, 538, 548-551, 557, 562-564, 594
– Ahipaz N., 2015, The Custom of the Ritual Burial of Coins in Synagogues, MA thesis, pp. 69-74 (Hebrew)
– The Bornblum Eretz Israel Synagogues Website:
– The Israel Museum:
– The Bezalel Narkiss Index of Jewish Art:
 Based on pottery sherds and coins found underneath the floors as well as in the rooms under the synagogue (Ilan 1989, p. 21 and p. 23). Stage IA is dated to 400-450 CE, based on pottery and coins underneath the plaster floor, and stage IB is dated to 450-500, based on a coin of Valentinian III from 425-455 CE, found underneath the mosaic floor. However, no full excavation report on this site, including a pottery and coin catalogue, has been published, and the Valentinian III coins has not been registered at the IAA coin department, so this information cannot be confirmed (see also Bijovsky 2012, p. 94).
 More precisely, around 620 CE, based on finds from the Islamic period found between the original walls of the synagogue and a new “frame” that was built around the building (Ilan 1989, p. 37).
 Ilan 1989, p. 21. Surveys of the site were conducted in the 1960s, but the place was never identified as the ancient site of Meroth until Zvi Ilan started excavations.
 Ilan 1995, p. 261.
 Ilan 1995, p. 267: this probably happened at the end of the 5th or beginning of the 6th century, based on the discovery of a small follis of Anastasius I dated 507-512 CE, found in L167 below the floor.
 Ilan 1995, p. 257. He compares this courtyard with a cistern (in some publicationss erroneously translated as “well”) to the atrium with a cistern that is often associated with ancient churches and remarks that perhaps the builders of the synagogue were influenced by the designs of contemporaneous churches. However, cisterns in the vicinity of synagogues are a well-known feature.
 Ilan 1989, pp. 28-29.
 Ilan 1989, p. 27.
 Ilan and Damati 1987, p. 127.
 These numbers are based on the information found in the IAA database and these coins have been added by me to my database. Bijovsky 2012, p. 94, however mentions only 104 legible coins from L167, 109 legible minimi from L157, and 116 legible minimi of L29A, for a total of 329 coins, which no longer seems to be true. See also Ahipaz 2015, pp. 71-72.
 I reached out to Emanuel Damati over email in the hopes of getting more information on this deposit but I never received a reply. I also made multiple attempts to get my hand on his (Hebrew) MA thesis in the hopes of finding more information, but my search was unsuccessful.
 Bijovksy mentions 128 coins in her unpublished report but this does not correlate with her tables or the IAA database.
 Bijovsky, unpublished report.
 Bijovsky further points out that this group only has six coins of the SALVS REIPVBLICAE “Victory dragging Captive” type, which usually constitutes the bulk of coins in 5th-century hoards in Israel/Palestine.
 Bijovksy mentions 141 coins in her unpublished report, but this does not correspond to her tables or the IAA database.
 Bijovksy mentions 98 coins in her unpublished report, but again this is not the same number of coins as in her tables or the IAA database.
 Kindler also refers to this place as “a vaulted storeroom” (1986, p. 315).
 Ilan 1995, p. 272. Kindler 1986, p. 315 calls it a “cracked hole.”
 Kindler 1986, p. 315; Ilan 1989 p. 30. Kindler, however, states that 248 coins of this deposit were gold (for a total of 485 coins). Ilan describes the tunnel as being 90 cm long instead of 60 cm. In 1995, he stated that the tunnel was 95 cm long.
 Kindler 1986, p. 315 mentions one gold coin of Sepphoris and “eight” Byzantine coins, for a total of “eight” coins. Some counting error must have occurred here.
 According to Bijovsky, 50 are normal solidi and 6 are lightweight solidi. Four of the lightweight solidi can be attributed to Maurice Tiberius: they are all of the 23 siliqua type and have a star depicted in the reverse right field of the coin, and a globe cruciger instead of the normal globe in the hands of the standing angel. Two can be attributed to Justin II: they are of the 22 siliqua type and have a star to the left of the seated Constantinople, a reverse inscription ending in ΘS, and an exergue reading OB*+*. However, the weight of the normal solidi in this deposit ranges from 3.82 to 4.52 grams (with standard solidus 4.5 gr), while the 6 lightweight solidi range from 4.2 to 4.3 grams (with standard lightweight solidus between 3.75 and 4.3 gr), all displaying significant loss of weight.
 Kindler 1986; 1987 writes that there are 56 solidi, 38 semisses, 150 tremisses, 225 folles and 13 half-folles, but this is incorrect. Bijovsky writes in her unpublished analysis that the deposit contains 58 solidi, 36 semisses, and 149 tremisses, but this does not correlate with the catalogue she includes nor with the IAA database.
 Kindler 1986, p. 316; Ilan 1989, p. 30; Ilan 1995 p. 273 (who attributes the sudden abandonment to “an attack by a hostile force”).
 Unpublished report 2019, p. 10, p. 24. She believes the deposit was closed sometime around 610 CE, when the synagogue went out of use.
 For the use of punchmarks on Byzantine coinage, including images of the punchmarks used in the Meroth deposit, see Bijovsky 2012, pp. 189-194 (also Kindler 1986, pp. 317-318). The punchmarks can be attributed to the first monetary reform under Anastasius (also called “small module,” 498-512 CE), to express a change in value of the coin by the same emperor who struck the original coin. According to Hahn and Metlich, they are marks of revalidation, stamped after the introduction of the large module (512-518 CE), to indicate the new value relative to the old coins (Hahn 2000, p. 30). A possible explanation for why they are not applied to all coins might be that the punchmarks were only applied during a short transitional period until enough coins of the large module entered circulation and revalidating coins was no longer necessary (Bijovsky 2012, pp. 193-194).
 The date and place of this series is still under discussion, but Hahn and Metlich propose Cyprus as the minting place and the letter Γ on the reverse standing for year three of the rebellion, giving a date of 310-311 CE.
 Bijovsky 2012, p. 360.