Horvat Kur

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Dates Excavated:

2010-2018

Excavator(s):

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.

Coins

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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References

Bibliography:

– 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

Website(s):

– Kinneret Regional Project:
https://kinneret-excavations.org/tel-kinrot/horvat-kur
– Academy of Finland, Centre for Excellence:
https://blogs.helsinki.fi/sacredtexts/2018/07/24/the-final-excavation-season-at-the-horvat-kur-synagogue/
– The Bornblum Eretz Israel Synagogues Website:
http://synagogues.kinneret.ac.il/synagogues/kur/
– ASOR Blog and Video:
http://www.asor.org/blog/2014/07/14/report-on-2010-2013-excavations-at-horvat-kur-galilee/

Footnotes

[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.

Hammath Tiberias

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Dates Excavated:

1961-1963

Excavator(s):

Moshe Dothan

Archaeological Information: Area D3 to H6 on the grid system

Date of Building Construction:

Stratum IIb: first half 3rd century[794]
Stratum IIa (=Severus Synagogue): late 3rd-first quarter 4th century[795]
Stratum Ib: 5th century[796]
Stratum Ia: mid 7th century[797]

Place of Building in Settlement:
At the far southern end of the villages of Hammath and Tiberias, which were at this point in history were combined into one city. [798] The synagogue is located on the highest terrace of the site.

Building Description:
Stratum IIb: This was a rectangular hall with three rows of three columns on stylobates, dividing the space into four uneven aisles. The northeast corner of the hall extended outwards to the north, forming a niche of 1.20 m deep. There were two side rooms: one to the north and one to the south.[800] The northern side room possibly had a stairwell leading to an upper floor or the roof. The interior walls of the building were plastered with colorful decorations and the floor had mosaics, which were destroyed by the rebuilding of Stratum IIa.[801] An oblong cistern with a white mosaic floor was attached to the northwest corner of the north room. Stratum IIa: This building, also known as the Synagogue of Severos, is very similar in layout to the one in Stratum IIb. Three entrances were located in the north wall, as indicated by a Greek inscription in the mosaic floor.[802] The south room was now expanded to the east and new partition walls created four rooms. One room, Room 35, had a rectangular sunken area on the west side, in which multiple objects were found.[803] The floor of the four aisles of the synagogue was paved with decorated mosaics, including a zodiac, Torah shrine with menorahs, and Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic inscriptions. Stratum Ib: This is an entirely new synagogue building, built upon the remains of the Severus synagogue. This building was an apsidal, longhouse synagogue with two rows of six columns and a transverse row of four columns in the northwest area. It might have had a second story. There is a large, inscribed apse at the south side of the nave with rooms on each side, an exonarthex on the north side, as well as a narthex and an atrium to the north. There is an additional hall on the west side, which has a small apse with raised platform on the east.[804] The entire hall was probably covered with polychrome mosaics. Stratum Ia: In the last phase of the synagogue, the apse in the western hall was removed, niches were installed in the southeast and southwest walls, and a roof was constructed above this hall. The courtyard was divided into smaller units.[805] No changes were made to the main synagogue building except for a new mosaic floor that was mostly geometric in design.

Maps and Plans


Other Materials

Copyright-Protected Materials (logged-in members only)


First Deposit

Date Excavated: 1961-1962

Deposit Location:

Inside sunken area in the southern side room

Archaeological Information:

Stratum IIa, Room 35, Locus 52

Certain association with the building itself? Yes

Deposit Retrievable? Yes

Deposit Type: IIA2

Deposit Description:

In the Stratum IIa Phase of the building, four rooms were created against south wall W119: rooms 36, 34, 35, and 109. The level of room 35 was about 80 cm higher than that of the floor in the Stratum IIb phase: the marked difference in elevation is due to a deliberate fill, laid on the mosaic floor of Stratum IIb, covered by a floor of stone slabs.[806] The new, higher level of the floor was apparently meant to serve as a base for a structure or accessory. Room 35 was a continuation of the nave; any structure could have been reached from the main level of the nave only by means of steps. On the west side of room 35 was a rectangular area of 1.80 m X 80 cm, which was left unfilled and had a “cist” built into it: Locus 52.[807] The part below the floor was 83 cm deep, and the part above the floor probably had wooden walls on three or four sides and might have reached the ceiling of the room. A possible opening to the structure must have been on the south side, from a narrow passage leading from room 109. On the floor of the cist was found a quantity of oil lamp fragments, a pottery spindle whorl, the upper part of a stone measuring cup, a fragment of a roof tile, three broken bone needles, fragments of a bone spatula, a few bronze and iron (?) hooks, a few iron nails with flat heads, and 31 small, worn bronze coins dated to the 4th-5th centuries.

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:
In the final excavation report published in 1983, Dothan gives a full analysis of three coins found in Locus 52: coins 28, 29, and 31.[808] In 2000, Nitzan Amitai-Preiss published an additional 54 coins from the “Late Byzantine and Early Muslim” synagogue.[809] Unfortunately, this catalogue is a mixture of Byzantine and medieval coins and no information is given on where, or in which locus, each coin was found, or what their identification numbers are. It is thus unclear if any of these coins were found in Locus 52, or not. No other information on the coins could be retrieved, as they are not stored at the IAA, and Moshe Dothan passed away in 1999.[810] According to Ariel, there is a good chance that the coins from Locus 52 were all discarded.[811] Thus, this database only contains information on three of the 31 coins. The coins range from 346 to 383 CE, and are attributed to Constantius II, Valens, and Valentinian II.

Other Images

Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table Hammath Tiberias, 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.

Download Spreadsheet:


References

Bibliography:

Website(s):

– The Bornblum Eretz Israel Synagogues Website: http://synagogues.kinneret.ac.il/synagogues/hammath-tiberias/
– Bible Walks:
https://biblewalks.com/sites/hammattiberias.html
– Virtual World Project
http://moses.creighton.edu/vr/HammatTiberias/site.html

Footnotes

[794] This date is based on the latest coins found in stratum III, as well as on the historical events in the Galilee in the early 3rd (Dothan 1983, pp. 66-67). Magness, however, argues for a late 4th or early 5th century date, based on her interpretation of the pottery, coins, and inscriptions (Magness 2005a, pp. 8-13).

[795] This date is based on the hypothesis that the building was constructed between the visit of Diocletian to Palestine in 286 CE and the end of the reign of Constantine the Great in 337 CE, based on the inscriptions found inside the synagogue building (Dothan 1983, p. 67). However, Magness 2005a dates this phase to the late 4th-early 5th century.

[796] This date is based on the theory that the synagogue was built immediately after the synagogue of Severus was destroyed in the earthquake of 419 CE (Dothan 2000, pp. 93-94). However, based on the dating of the pottery and coins, Magness believes that the stratum Ib synagogue has a terminus post quem of the late 6th to 7th century (Magness 2005a, p. 10). This was also indicated by David Stacey, who believes Stratum Ib should be dated to 750 CE or later (Stacey, 2002).

[797] Magness 2005a dates this Phase to the 9th to 10th century.

[798] Tiberias was always a popular destination for pilgrims, travelers, and historians. The first excavations at the site were undertaken in 1920/21 by the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society under the supervision of Nahum Slouschz (Dothan 1983, p. 5). The investigation in the area around the synagogue started in 1947, when the construction of a modern bathhouse was undertaken at the site. The Israel War of Independence of 1948 stopped these plans, and it was only when a new development plan for the site was drawn up in 1961 that the site was properly excavated by Moshe Dothan (Dothan 1983, p. 6).

[799] Dothan 1983, p. 7.

[800] This building was not laid out in absolute cardinal directions (see map drawing). By “east” side, I mean the direction of Wall 127, “north” means the direction of Walls 122-123, “south” the direction of Wall 119, and “west” the direction of Wall 138 (Dothan 1983, 2000).

[801] Although Weiss suggests that the easternmost aisle had a stone pavement (Weiss 1992, pp. 323-324).

[802] Although it is hard to be sure; this suggestion is primarily based on parallels to Galilean synagogues (Spigel 2012a, p. 219, footnote 444). Weiss suggests that the entrance was in the east wall and that Stratum IIb and Stratum IIa were in fact one synagogue that went through several changes (Weiss 1992, pp. 322-324)

[803] Dothan suggests that the Torah scrolls were stored here, which would have been brought out into the nave for reading (Dothan 1983, p. 25). Spigel thinks that the image of a Torah shrine on the mosaic floor directly in front of this apse, together with archaeological remains of wooden pediments inside the space, suggest that a physical Torah shrine stood inside this sunken area (Spigel 2012a, p. 219).

[804] Dothan 2000, p. 18. According to Milson, the last synagogue was modified into a church. This apse, together with a water installation formed a baptistery, like in the Church of Kursi (Milson 2004, pp. 45-56). I find his arguments unconvincing, as water installations were not uncommon in synagogues and do not need to point to a baptistery. Also, Milson seems to ignore the fact that the mosaic pavement of Stratum Ia building still depicts a seven-branched menorah, making it a Jewish communal building (see also Stacey 2002).

[805] Dothan 2000, p. 37.

[806] Dothan 1983, p. 28.

[807] Dothan 1983, p. 28.

[808] It is unclear why only three of the 31 coins are given; does this mean the others were illegible?

[809] Dothan 2000, pp. 95-101.

[810] Dothan worked at the Haifa University and there is a chance the coins are still stored there. I reached out to professors Ayelet Gilboa, Michael Eisenberg, and Danny Rosenberg from Haifa University to obtain further information, but they never responded to me.

[811] Personal communication: “I can imagine a situation whereby Rahmani (staff member IAA) told Dothan that the coins were so worn as to be uncleanable and unidentifiable, and that as a result Dothan never gave them to Rahmani to access” (Donald Ariel).

‘En Gedi

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Dates Excavated:

1. 1970-1972
2. 1996-2002

Excavator(s):

1. Dan Barag, Yosef Porat, and Ehud Netzer
2. Yizhar Hirschfeld

Archaeological Information: /

Date of Building Construction:

Phase I: end 2nd-beginning 3rd century[987]

Phase II: mid-3rd – beginning 4th century[988]

Phase III: mid-5th-second half 5th century[989]

Place of Building in Settlement:
In the center and highest top of the settlement, surrounded by houses.[990]

Building Description:
This synagogue had at least three phases:
Phase I (=Barag Stratum IIIB or Porath 2020 Phase IIc): A trapezoidal-shaped building with two entrances in the north wall.[991] No internal columns divided up the space. The building had a crude mosaic floor with geometric designs (L125). On the west side of the building was a large courtyard, also paved with monochrome mosaics.
Phase II (=Barag 1992 Stratum IIIA or Porath 2020 Phase IIb): Four columns were added to create an eastern and a southern aisle, making the building a basilica. The center door in the northern wall was blocked and made into a rectangular niche, which could have been the location for a Torah shrine. Between the second opening near the northeastern corner and the niche, a stepped seat was installed, possibly a so-called Seat of Moses.[992] Three entrances were also made in the west wall with an exedra beyond it. The mosaic floor was repaired. Along the south wall, three-tiered benches were added.
Phase III (=Barag 1992 Stratum II or Porath 2020 Phase IIa): The three doorways in the west wall were turned into passageways to create a western aisle. Another narthex was added to the west of the building with a washing installation in the southwestern corner. The door in the southern end of the west wall now led into a small side room, and the eastern door opening in the north wall led to another side room to the north (L110). The function of both rooms is unknown. The niche in the hall was replaced by a rectangular structure which protruded 1.5 m into the nave,[993] with an apse behind it which might have been the location for a wooden Torah shrine.[994] The interior of the wooden structure held a storage space, or, according to the excavators, a genizah in which 3000 coins were found.[995] In front of the wooden structure, a rectangular area surrounded by chancel screens was constructed.[996] The mosaic floor was renovated and decorated with three seven-branched menorahs, colorful birds, and multiple inscriptions. The building was destroyed in a fire, which left many objects in situ.[997]

Maps and Plans


Copyright-Protected Materials (logged-in members only)


First Deposit

Date Excavated: 1970-1972

Deposit Location:

In the synagogue niche in the middle of the northern wall.

Archaeological Information:

Stratum II or Phase IIa, Locus 101, Reg. Nos. 55 and 265

Certain association with the building itself? Yes

Deposit Retrievable? Yes

Deposit Type: IIA4

Deposit Description:

Nearly 3000 coins were found in the debris of the Stratum II Torah shrine, together with the remnants of (a) charred scroll(s), a goblet, a miniature silver seven-branched menorah, pottery lamps, and fragments of glass.[998] The coins were initially dispersed into two main groups related to L101: Reg. No. 55 and Reg. No. 265, but were then combined into one group. 138 coins were cleaned immediately after the discovery and more coins were cleaned by the IAA in the 2010s. Only 175 of the coins were preserved well enough to be identified.[999]

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:
The final publication of the synagogue of ‘En Gedi is in an advanced stage and should be published soon.[1000] It will include a coin catalogue written by Gabriela Bijovsky. The IAA was kind enough to give me access to this report, which I was able to use for this project.[1001] Of the circa 3000 coins found in the debris of the Torah shrine, only 175 were preserved well enough to be identified. The coins range in date from the second century BCE (an uncertain Seleucid coin) to 518-527 CE (Justin I). The Seleucid coin is followed by eight Jewish coins, including two prutot of Mattathias Antigonus (40-37 BCE, minted in Jerusalem), [1002] a Herodian prutah of Agrippa I (41-42 CE, Jerusalem), [1003] two Roman procuratorial coins (minted in Jerusalem under Tiberius and Pontius Pilate), and three prutot of the Jewish War (minted 67-68 CE in Jerusalem). According to Bijovsky, these coins pre-date the construction of the synagogue by many centuries but constitute very common types that circulated in the Second Temple village of ‘En Gedi, and are found in large numbers in almost all the other excavations at the site.[1004] The period between the two Jewish Revolts is also well represented in the deposit, starting with a coin of Vespasian, struck in Gaza in 69-70 CE, followed by two coins of Domitian (both minted in Caesarea, one of them bearing two countermarks), two coins of Trajan (one minted in Ashkelon 106-107 CE, the other in Caesarea), and three coins of Hadrian (two minted in Ashkelon – 117/188 CE and 119/120 CE, and one in Gaza bearing a double date: year three of the imperial visit, which is also year 192, or 131/132 CE).[1005] Four other coins can be dated roughly to the first century CE, three of which were minted at Ashkelon, and two others to 70-135 CE. The deposit continues with no gaps into the second and third century,[1006] starting with two coins of Antoninus Pius through the Severan dynasty, up to the end of provincial coinage by the early second half of the third century. Among this group of 53 coins are five minted in Jerusalem (or Aelia Capitolina), two coins minted in Petra, [1007] a coin of Elagabalus possibly from Neapolis,[1008] and a coin of Severus Alexander probably from Anthedon. [1009] In addition, there is a rare coin minted in Damascus (emperor unknown) and three imperial issues from Rome: a sestertius of Antoninus Pius and two others of uncertain rulers: a sestertius and a dupondius. After this, the chronological sequence continues with a series of very worn Antoniniani dated to the second half of the third century (including a possible coin from Milan, the only coin from this minting place found in an ancient synagogue deposit), and a group of radiate fractions from the reigns of Diocletian and Maximian. After this, the number of coins increases: huge quantities of unidentifiable and corroded Late Roman minimi, generally dated to the 4th and 5th century CE, constitute the bulk of the deposit (due to their bad state of preservation, only 74 of these appear here in the database). Only five coins of the 5th century were in good enough condition to be analyzed. They include a nummus of Theodosius II, one of Valentinian III, and one of Marcian, and two coins of the “cross in wreath” type. The latest coin is a follis of Justin I.

Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table 'En Gedi, 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: 1971

Deposit Location:

In the courtyard of a house next to the synagogue, inside a small silo in the corner of the courtyard floor.[1010]

Archaeological Information:

Courtyard House D, Locus 285, Reg. No. 1227

Certain association with the building itself? No with synagogue, yes with houses [1011]

Deposit Retrievable? Yes

Deposit Type: IIA5

Deposit Description:

A hoard of 41 Byzantine folles, wrapped in cloth, was found in the courtyard of House D, which is located adjacent to, and west of the synagogue.[1012] The coins were hidden with an oil lamp in a small silo (L285) made of field stones cemented in lime mortar (35X72 cm in inner space), covered by the clay lid of a casserole, in the southeast corner of the courtyard (L233). All the coins were cleaned after discovery but most are in a very poor state of preservation; as some of the coins adhered to each other their identification can only be partially observed.

Container Present? Yes: a cloth bundle

Description of Coins:
As with the Torah Shrine deposit, the Byzantine folles deposit has not been published yet. However, the unpublished paper by Gabriela Bijovsky from 2016, given to me by the IAA, informed my database. The deposit contained folles of only three emperors: Anastasius I (512-518 CE), Justin I (518-538 CE), and Justinian I (527-538 CE), clearly indicating that the coins in this deposit were assembled at one time. The seven folles of Anastasius I are of the large module, all minted in Constantinople. The seven folles of Justin I include one minted in Constantinople, one in Nicomedia, and five uncertain mints. The four folles of Justinian I comprise one minted in Constantinople, two in Nicomedia, and one of an uncertain mint. The illegible coins include 21 worn folles and two half-folles, all roughly dated between 512 and 538 CE. Bijovsky remarks that the lack of small module coins of Anastasius I and heavy folles of Justinian I probably indicates that coins of a certain weight and module were specifically selected for hoarding.[1013]

Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table 'En Gedi, 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: 1970-1972

Deposit Location:

Under the floor of a side room of the synagogue of Stratum II or Phase IIa.

Archaeological Information:

Stratum II or Phase IIa, Locus 168, Reg. No. 1246 (under the floor of room L110)

Certain association with the building itself? Yes

Deposit Retrievable? No

Deposit Type: IIB6

Deposit Description:

Approximately 143 unidentifiable minimi and 7 identifiable coins were found as one group under the floor of a side room to the north (L110) of the synagogue. The room could be accessed through an opening in the northern wall of the building (W102), but its function is unknown.

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:
As with the Torah Shrine and the follis deposit, the group of coins found under the floor of a side room of the synagogue has not been published yet. However, the unpublished paper of Gabriela Bijovsky from 2016 reveals information on seven of these coins.[1014] Only four could be dated: one Roman provincial coin to the second century CE, one Late Roman coin to 378-383 CE, one to 383-395 CE, and one to 395-408 CE. None could be attributed to a certain emperor or minting place.

Other Images

Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table 'En Gedi, 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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References

Bibliography:

– Barag D. & Porat Y., 1970, “The Synagogue at En-Gedi,” in: Qadmoniyot, Vol. 3, pp. 97-100 (Hebrew)
– Barag, Dan, Yoseph Porat, and Ehud Netzer, 1972, “The Second Season of Excavations in the Synagogue at En-Gedi,” in: Qadmoniot, Vol. 2, pp. 52-54 (Hebrew)
– Hüttenmeister F. & Reeg G., 1977, Die Antiken Synagogen in Israel, 2 vols., Wiesbaden: L. Reichert, pp. 108-114
– Barag D., Porat Y, and Netzer E., 1981, “The synagogue at ‘En-Gedi,” in: Levine L. (ed.), Ancient Synagogues Revealed, Jerusalem: The Israel Exploration Society, pp. 116-119
– Levine L., 1981, “The Inscription in the ‘En Gedi Synagogue,” in: Levine L. (ed.), Ancient Synagogues Revealed, Jerusalem: The Israel Exploration Society, pp. 140-145
– Chiat M., 1982, Handbook of Synagogue Architecture, Chico: Scholars Press, pp. 219-224
– Ilan Z., 1991, Ancient Synagogues in Israel, Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defence, pp. 318-321 (Hebrew)
– Mazar B. & Barag D., 1993 “En-Gedi,” in: NEAEHL, pp. 399-409
– Ariel D.T., 2002, “The Coins from the Surveys and Excavations of Caves in the Northern Judean Desert,” in: ‘Atiqot, Vol. 41, No. 2, p. 298
– Hadas G., 2005, “The Excavations in the Village of ‘En Gedi, 1993-1995,” in: ’Atiqot, vol. 49*, pp. 41-71 (Hebrew) and 136-137 (English)
– Hirschfeld Y. ed., 2006, Ein Gedi- A Very Large Village of Jews, Hecht Museum: University of Haifa
– Hirschfeld Y., 2007, En-Gedi Excavations II, Israel Exploration Journal
– Milson D., 2007, Art and Architecture of the Synagogue in Late Antique Palestine: in the Shadow of the Church, Leiden/Boston, pp. 352-357
– Spigel C., 2012, Ancient Synagogue Seating Capacities: Methodology, Analysis and Limits, Mohr Siebeck, pp. 198-204
– Hachlili R., 2013, Ancient Synagogues: Archaeology and Art: New Discoveries and Current Research, Leiden: Brill, pp. 120-121, 183, 185, 191, 270, 272, 306, 463, 521-522, 536, 544-545

Website(s):

– The Bornblum Eretz Israel Synagogues Website:
http://synagogues.kinneret.ac.il/synagogues/en-gedi/
– Coin Hoards of the Roman Empire:
http://chre.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/hoard/7855
– Bible Walks:
https://biblewalks.com/Sites/EinGedi.html
– Jewish Agency for Israel:
http://www.jewishagency.org/places-israel/content/26141
– Virtual World Project
http://moses.creighton.edu/vr/EnGedi/site.html

Footnotes

[987] Based on the coins found in the genizah of the Stratum II synagogue, which date to the Severan dynasty. However, these coins were not found under the floor of the Stratum IIIB synagogue and their use for dating is thus problematic. Spigel 2012a, p. 198 dates the different building phases as following: Phase I: 3rd-4th century, Phase II: 4th-5th century, Phase III: 5th-6th century. It is unclear where he is getting these dates from and it might be a mistake in his publication (personal communication).

[988] This date is based on a time when “a fixed location for the Ark of the Law in the wall facing Jerusalem began to be a standard phenomenon.” In other words, the date is not based on archaeological evidence but on historical conjecture.

[989] It is unclear what this date is based on. Hirschfeld 2006, p. 19* writes “The synagogue of Stratum II was built in the mid-5th century CE or during the second half of that century, when the Jewish settlement at the site flourished.”

[990] Hirschfeld 2006, p. 12*. The first travelers to ‘En-Gedi mention the site in the 19th century, but the first methodical survey was carried out in 1875 by a team of British researchers. More Western researchers visited the site in the beginning of the 20th century and the first picture of the synagogue was taken in 1911 by F.M. Abel. Later, Benjamin Mazar (1949; 1961-64), Yohanan Aharoni (1956), Nahman Avigad (1961-62), Joseph Naveh (1978), and Gideon Hadas (1980s) surveyed or excavated parts of the settlement. The synagogue area was eventually excavated by Dan Barag, Joseph Porat, and Ehud Netzer between 1970 and 1972 (Hirschfeld et al. 2007, pp. 17-20).

[991] Chiat 1982, p. 220; Barag 1993 and 2006, p. 17; Spigel 2012a, p. 199. Hachlili 2013, p. 121, however, talks about three openings. It is unclear where she got this information from.

[992] Barag 2006, p. 17.

[993] A base of dressed stones was found here; the excavators suggest it had a wooden structure on top that held the Torah scrolls. Porat identifies this structure as L119, a bemah (Porat, unpublished report).

[994] Chiat 1982, p. 221: fragments of wooden posts were found in situ, as well as the negatives of a wood frame at the bottom of the niche walls and the negatives of reeds in plaster fragments found in the niche.

[995] Barag 2006, pp. 19-20: the finds discovered here include a footed, goblet-shaped vessel, a small, bronze seven-branched menorah, pottery lamps, a decorated pottery bowl, fragments of glass vessels, and remnants of burnt scrolls. In my opinion, these are not from a genizah (a storage place for sacred objects that were no longer being used but could not be thrown away) but were still being used in synagogue rituals at the time of its destruction (see Deposit 1, below).

[996] This was a rectangular space which enclosed a mosaic panel. At the four corners of this structure were small sockets, which apparently held the posts of a chancel screen (possibly of wood) which surrounded the area.

[997] Barag et al. 1982, p. 117; Hirschfeld 2006, p. 16. This would have taken place at the end of the 6th or beginning of the 7th century, based on the coins found in the village. Bijovsky remarks in her unpublished paper on the ‘En Gedi synagogue coins, however, that the latest coins found at the synagogue site go no later than “the undated series of Justinian I, struck until 538 CE”. There thus seems to be a discrepancy between the latest coins found in Hirschfeld’s excavation of the Byzantine village (which go up to 600 CE) and the latest coins in the synagogue and its deposits (Bijovsky, IAA unpublished paper 2016, p. 7). The pottery from the synagogue, however, points to a destruction of the building in the mid-6th to 7th century.

[998] Bijovsky, IAA unpublished paper 2016, p. 2, pp. 4-6. The scroll was eventually scanned at the IAA with the same techniques scholars are now using to read the Dead Sea Scrolls. The researchers discovered that the charred scroll contains texts from the first two chapters of the book of Leviticus and that it was probably still being used at the time of the destruction of the synagogue. The scroll and its analysis and translation has been published as Segal et al 2016.

[999] Bijovsky remarks that the state of preservation of the coins found at ‘En Gedi is very poor. Due to the high concentration of salts in the soil around the Dead Sea, most of the coins turned into highly corroded coppers. Moreover, the lack of proper storage of the coins in humidity and temperature-controlled environments after their discovery in 1972 was not helpful for their preservation over the last decades. Hence, a majority of the coins are lumps of metal that are completely unidentifiable, even more so than at other sites. Only about 6% of this hoard could be read after being cleaned at the IAA laboratories.

[1000] Personal communication Yosef Porat at the end of 2019. By mid-2021, the publication had still not come out.

[1001] This report was written by Bijovsky in 2016 and is referred to here as Bijovsky, IAA unpublished paper 2016

[1002] These are the only coins of Mattathias Antigonus found in ancient synagogue deposits.

[1003] This is the only coin of Agrippa I found in ancient synagogue deposits.

[1004] See Bijovsky 2007, pp. 157-159.

[1005] Coins minted at Ashkelon have only been found in the synagogue deposit at ‘En Gedi.

[1006] The numismatic evidence from Hirschfeld’s excavations of the Byzantine village apparently shows a hiatus in settlement from the mid-second century until the second quarter of the third century (Bijovsky 2007, p. 160).

[1007] These are the only coins from Petra found in ancient synagogue deposits.

[1008] The only other coin from Neapolis in an ancient synagogue deposit was found at Wadi Hamam.

[1009] This is the only coin from Anthedon found in ancient synagogue deposits.

[1010] Barag et al. 1982, p. 119. Hachlili 2013, p. 544 mentions that the hoard was found plastered inside a wall of the house, but this information is incorrect (personal communication Gabriela Bijovsky).

[1011] Because of this reason, this deposit might not be connected to synagogue activities at all, and should possibly be dropped from future synagogue coin deposit lists. However, because Bijovsky IAA unpublished paper 2016 places this deposit under the subchapter “Coins from Excavations at the Synagogue of En-Gedi” (in contrast to the Coins from the Village), it has been included here.

[1012] Bijovsky, IAA unpublished paper 2016, pp. 2-4.

[1013] Bijovsky, IAA unpublished paper 2016, p. 3.

[1014] Bijovsky, IAA unpublished paper 2016, pp. 2-3. It is unclear why all the coins from this deposit were not published in her catalogue: perhaps they were all illegible? She identifies this group as “probably a foundation deposit.”

Capernaum

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Dates Excavated:

1. 1905-1907
2. 1905-1914
3. 1921-1926
4. 1968-1986 and 2000-2003

Excavator(s):

1. Heinrich Kohl and Carl Watzinger
2. Wendelin Hinterkeuser
3. Gaudenzio Orfali
4. Virgilio Corbo and Stanislao Loffreda

Archaeological Information: Area 12

Date of Building Construction:

early 6th century [858]

Place of Building in Settlement:
Built on top of a platform in the center of the town, surrounded by four streets. [859]

Building Description:
A basilica with two rows of seven columns and a transverse row of two columns in the north on raised stylobates. There were two tiers of benches along the east and west walls. Three entrances were located in the south wall. Another entrance in the north wall led to a small room in the back, while a door in the east wall led to a large, columned courtyard with a stone pavement. This trapezium-shaped courtyard could be entered from two entrances in the south wall and three in the north. Windows were found in the east wall. Inside the building, two platforms flanked the central entrance by the south wall. Various decorative elements were also discovered, carved in stone, as well as dedicatory inscriptions in Aramaic and Greek. The floor was covered in stone slabs of which patches were preserved. The entire building was made out of white limestone on top of a basalt raised platform, making the building stand out next to the black, basalt houses surrounding it. Underneath the synagogue, three strata were discerned by the excavators: Stratum A: Structures (most likely private houses) underneath the synagogue platform; Stratum B: An artificial platform of, at some places, 3 meters high, filled with basalt stones, earth, ashes, and a great number of broken vessels; stratum C: A layer on average 30 cm thick, consisting of white mortar on top of the platform, on which the synagogue building and its benches were set.

Maps and Plans


Other Materials





First Deposit

Date Excavated: 1971 [860]

Deposit Location:

Inside the synagogue, on the south side of the western aisle, just in front of the western entrance in the southern wall (Trench XIV).

Archaeological Information:

Area 12; Trench XIV; Locus 814; Stratum C

Certain association with the building itself? Yes

Deposit Retrievable? No

Deposit Type: IB6

Deposit Description:

2922 coins were found on the south side of the western aisle, just inside the western entrance.[861] They were discovered in only one square meter, on top of the mortar, underneath one single stone. They were not deeply embedded in the mortar. Many of them had a patina of the same mortar, however, and it can thus be assumed that they were put in place while the mortar was still soft (and thus formed an integral part of the bedding).[862]

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:
Although the thousands of coins found in the Capernaum synagogue sparked the conversation on coin deposits found in ancient synagogues (see chaper 1), they still have not been analyzed and published in full. The Franciscan Printing Press in Jerusalem published nine books between 1974 and 2008 dedicated to the excavations of the village and its finds (Cafarnao I-IX), but a publication on the coins found in the synagogue building is still lacking.[863] For the moment, the coins are stored in the caveau of a Franciscan convent (so no longer at the Flagellation Museum in Jerusalem where they were kept at first), and are not accessible to the public or available for research. Research and publication rights have been given to Bruno Callgher and Ermanno Arslan, who have been publishing preliminary reports on selected subgroups of coins found in the building over the past years.[864] At this point, all the approximately 25,000 coins have been scanned, with 5-6 coins on each scan, obverse and reverse.[865] Callegher is currently cutting all the scans up into individual coin images and entering their metrological data and LRBC parallels. The coins themselves have been weighed, measured, and their axis noted, and they have been stored in paper bags. This process has taken years and Callegher is currently looking for funding to continue the process and publish the coins.
This said, some information on the coins can be deduced from the dozens of articles that have been published since the 1960s. As for the 2922 coins found in Locus 814, in 1972 Loffreda published that they date mostly to the end of the 4th and beginning of 5th century, and were minted under Honorius, Arcadius, Theodosius, Valentinianus, and Eudoxia, with less frequent coins of Constantine and his sons.[866] However, Loffreda does not tell us which coins are from which emperor, nor do we have any other identification details. Arslan eventually published multiple tables on the Stratum C deposit found in Trench XIV in his 1997 publication, providing information on 739 legible coins from the deposit, dated between 335 and 491 CE.[867] It is not known, however, if the group also contained earlier and later coins, and we still lack a full analysis of each coin. The information given here in Fig. 30 is the data that can be provided at this point.[868]

Other Images

Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table Capernaum, 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: 1971

Deposit Location:

Underneath the side benches

Archaeological Information:

Area 12, Trench XVII, L817

Certain association with the building itself? Yes

Deposit Retrievable? No

Deposit Type: IB6

Deposit Description:

67 bronze coins and five gold coins were found under side benches of the prayer hall. [869] Only six coins were embedded in the foundation of the benches, on the southeast side of the hall; the others were lying on top of the bench foundations. The five gold coins were found together, under the eastern benches, still in situ near the doorway leading from the synagogue hall to the courtyard.

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:
According to preliminary identifications by Fr. Spijkerman and published by Loffreda in 1972, one coin of this deposit belongs to Constantine, one to Constantius II, one to Honorius, one to Arcadius, and two to the 4th century (with identification undecided). [870] The five gold coins are dated to the late 7th century. Unfortunately, this is all the information we have on this group.

Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table Capernaum, 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: 1968-1986

Deposit Location:

In Stratum C, in various locations in the synagogue building where the stone pavement was missing: [871] between the north wall and the northern stylobate (Trench II), in the main hall (Trenches XX, XXII, XXIV, and XXV), on the south side of the eastern aisle (Trench XVII), and in the northern area of the western aisle (Trench XXI).

Archaeological Information:

Area 12; Trench II, Trench XVII, Trench XX, Trench XXI, Trench XXII, Trench XXIV, Trench XXV; L802, L817, L820, L821, L822, L824, L825; Stratum C

Certain association with the building itself? Yes

Deposit Retrievable? No

Deposit Type: IB6

Deposit Description:

In stratum C of Trench II, 89 coins were discovered. Some Roman coins were laid in the loose dirt near the top, but deeper down the coins were still encrusted with white mortar. [872] The greatest concentration was found near the northeast corner of the trench, where 63 coins were found together. In Trench XVII a total of 67 coins was exposed: 21 were found in the mortar of the side benches (see above) and 46 were stuck in the mortar bed of the floor, where the stone pavement was missing. Last, in Trench XXI, 43 coins were found and in an expansion of Trench XXV, 71 more coins. It is unclear how many coins were found in Trenches XX, XXII, and XXIV. [873]

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:
According to Loffreda, the coins embedded in the thick layer of mortar in Trench II belong to the emperors of the 4th century: Constantine, Constantius II, Constantius Gallus, Julianus, and Valentinianus. [874] The latest coin of Valentinianus (383 CE) gives a terminus post quem for the deposit. 87 of these coins were described by Spijkerman in a numismatic report in 1970 (pp. 128-135), and he dates the coins ranging from 119-120 CE (Trajan) until 383 (Valentinian I). Fig. 32 gives an overview of the information we know on the coins from Loci 802, 811, and 817, for a total of 178 coins. Almost all the coins were struck in eastern mints, with the exception of one coin minted in Rome (Theodosius I, 378-383 CE). Possibly all 32 coins of Constantius II are of the FEL TEMP Fallen horseman type.

Other Images

Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table Capernaum, 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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Fourth Deposit

Date Excavated: 1968-1986

Deposit Location:

In Stratum C, in various locations under the eastern courtyard pavement: In the southeastern corner of the courtyard (Trench IV) and in the northeastern corner of the columned area (Trench XXIII)

Archaeological Information:

Area 12; Trench IV, Trench XXIII; L804, L823

Certain association with the building itself? Yes

Deposit Retrievable? No

Deposit Type: IB6

Deposit Description:

In Trench IV, 11 coins were found in stratum C, only one of which had traces of lime mortar still attached. In Trench XXIII, only 9 coins were found. The excavators believe that this northern area of the courtyard was the space where “the mortar was prepared for the final setting of the stone pavement of the courtyard.” [875]

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:
We do not have a lot of information on the coins found in these loci. Spijkerman 1970 includes four coins of Trench IV in his report. Of these, one was minted in Nicomedia (341-346 CE), one was minted by Constantius II (date and place unknown, Fallen horseman type), one was minted by Commodus (Gadara, 179-180 CE), and one is a Late Roman unknown coin.

Other Images

Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table Capernaum, Deposit 4. 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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Fifth Deposit

Date Excavated: 1974

Deposit Location:

Inside the synagogue, on the south side of the western aisle, just in front of the western entrance in the south wall (Trench XIV).

Archaeological Information:

Area 12; Trench XIV; L814, Stratum B

Certain association with the building itself? Yes

Deposit Retrievable? No

Deposit Type: IB6

Deposit Description:

236 coins were found sealed in Stratum B, in the southwest corner of the synagogue building. [876] The coins were found in the whole depth of the fill.

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:
According to Loffreda 1997 and Callegher 2016, 236 bronze coins were found in Trench XIV (Locus 814). The coins were discovered throughout the whole depth of the fill. This number is confusing, however. In 1997, Arslan published several tables on Trench IV. On page 260, he published a conspectus of 739 coins, all coming from Trench XIV, but only the ones dated between 335 and 491 CE. [877] On the next page, he published a conspectus of 148 coins found in Trench XIV and Trench XVIII. [878] In this mixed table, it is not clear which coins come from which trench, and he also only gives the coins with mintmarks dated between 335 and 491 CE. Because the coins given by Arslan could have been coming from different loci, or strata, I am following Loffreda’s and Callegher’s information on 236 coins in this database.

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Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table Capernaum, Deposit 5. 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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Sixth Deposit

Date Excavated: 1975

Deposit Location:

Under the “balcony” of the synagogue, on the south side outside the synagogue building, in front of the most eastern entrance to the building, as well as in front of the courtyard (Trench XVIII).

Archaeological Information:

Area 12; Trench XVIII; L818; Stratum B

Certain association with the building itself? Yes

Deposit Retrievable? No

Deposit Type: IB6

Deposit Description:

This artificial trench includes a part of the foundation of the stairs on the southeast side of the building, as well as an area in front of the eastern courtyard, and the entire area in front of the east aisle of the synagogue. Here, there was no Stratum C mortar layer. Stratum B here also contained many more pieces of white stone chips than elsewhere in the building. 570 coins were found in the fill throughout the depth of Stratum B, until the appearance of the flooring of Stratum A. Ten coins were found in the fill of the southeast stairway. [879]

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:
In 1997, Arslan published a conspectus of 148 coins found in Trenches XIV and XVIII.[880] Unfortunately, it is not clear which coins come from which trench, and he also only gives the coins with mintmarks dated between 335 and 491 CE.[881] For this database, I am following the information from Loffreda that 580 coins were found in this trench.[882]

Other Images

Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table Capernaum, Deposit 6. 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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Seventh Deposit

Date Excavated: 1972/1975

Deposit Location:

Archaeological Information:

Area 12; Trench XII; L812

Certain association with the building itself? Yes

Deposit Retrievable? No

Deposit Type: IB6

Deposit Description:

In Trench XII, after removing three large slabs and eight medium sized ones, 6000 coins were discovered. When the trench was enlarged three years later, another “19 kilograms” of coins were found.[883] After cleaning, a total of 20,323 coins were counted coming from Trench XII. In this trench, not one, but two levels of mortar could be discerned, one on top of the other, and the coins were spread out between the upper layer and slabs of the floor, as well as between the first and second mortar level. After analyzing the layers, the excavators concluded that they were put in together to form the base for the courtyard and that the coins thus belong together.[884]

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:
This deposit is the largest group of coins found in the synagogue at Capernaum. Not surprisingly, the numismatists working on the coin material have been struggling to work through it. Because of the high volume, it was impossible to classify quickly all the specimens found, and Arslan and Callegher instead chose to select a subset of coins and to publish a report according to a procedure based on statistical methods: the idea that a smaller subset would be a pars pro toto representation of the entire deposit.[885] Of the 20,323 coins, it was determined that only 63% of the coins could be read,[886] and that larger coins, like imperial coins from the 1st to 3rd century, were better preserved than the poorly-made 4th and 5th century coins and would thus receive more attention.[887] In 1997, a catalogue of 3058 specimen of this deposit (or 15% of the total) was published by Ermanno Arslan, however, 1133 of those are indicated as illegible.[888] 21 Axumite coins were published by Arslan in 1996 and some “Isis” coins from Alexandria in 2003. Callegher published another 182 coins in 2016, consisting of the imitations and proto-Vandalic nummi found in the deposit.[889] One problem I encountered going through these coins is that it is unclear if there is any overlap between these published coins. For this database, I am assuming there is not, and that every published coin has so far only been published once; thus, information on a total of 3287 coins has been provided here. As Callegher notes on p. 157 of his 2016 publication, there are several trends that can be noticed in this large deposit. First, there is a sizeable group of coins (of which 75 in the database here provided) minted between the 2nd century BCE and the mid-4th century CE (Ptolemaic coins, Hasmonean, coins by Roman procurators, Roman provincial coins, Antoniniani, and Constantinian folles). Subsequently, there is a significant quantity of issues of types struck between 350 and 363 CE (of which 152 in our database), like the FEL TEMP REPARATIO coins, SPES REIPVBLICE coins, SECVRITAS REIPVBLICAE coins, and VOTA coins; and coins struck towards the end of the 4th century CE (of which 646 here provided in the database). According to Callegher, 55% of the coins in the deposit can be dated to the second half of the 4th century (in our database, 24% can be dated to this period). In the 5th century, there is a progressive decline of coin issues (according to Callegher, from 48% in the 395-425 CE period to circa 21% in the 425-457 CE period and 8% in the 457-491 CE period). In our database, there are 740 coins from 395-425 CE (22.5%), 354 coins of 425-457 CE (11%), and 268 from the 457-491 CE period (8%). Callegher also notes that about 1.5 to 2 per cent of the legible coins are imitations and states that, in contrast to Arslan’s opinion, there are cast or blank flans among the group. In our database, the latest certain coins can be dated to Zeno (476-491 CE).[890] The Axumite coins have been dated by Arslan to the third quarter of the 5th century to the third quarter of the 6th century.[891] Most of the coins were minted in eastern mints, although for the majority of the coins, it is hard to say exactly at which mint. In his 2003 article, Arslan divides the coins found at Capernaum into different types. For the coins from Trench XII, he indicates that 219 are of the Cross in Wreath type (11.37% of the 1926 legible coins, with most legible coins coming from Cyzicus, Antioch, and Constantinople), 72 are minimi of Marcian (3.8% of total, most coming from Constantinople and Nicomedia), and 148 are minimi of Leo (7.7% of total, most from Constantinople). He also weighted the coins, indicating that the Cross in Wreath coins have an average weight of 0.978 grams (with a large peak between 0.93 and 0.98 grams, and a small peak between 1.11 and 1.16 grams); the Marian minimi have an average weight of 0.924 grams (with a peak at 0.87-0.92 grams, and one at 1.11-1.16 grams); and the Leo minimi have an average weight of 0.937 grams (with a peak at 0.93-0.98 grams, and one at 1.05-1.10 grams).[892] A conspectus of all the information gathered on the Trench XII coins from the various publications can be found in fig. 36.

Other Images

Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table Capernaum, Deposit 7. 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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References

Bibliography:

– Orfali P.G., 1922, Capharnaum et ses Ruines, d’après les Fouilles Accomplies à Tell-Houm par la Custodie Franciscaine de Terre Sainte, Paris: Auguste Picard
– Sukenik E.L., 1934, Ancient Synagogues in Palestine and Greece, London: The Oxford University Press, pp. 7-21
– Corbo V & Loffreda S., 1970, La Sinagoga di Cafarnao dopo gli scavi del 1969, Jerusalem: Tip. dei PP. Francescani
– Spijkerman A., 1970, “Monete della sinagoga di Cafarna””, in: La Sinagoga di Cafarnao dopo gli scavi del 1969, pp. 125-139
– Foerster G., 1971, “Notes on Recent Excavations at Capernaum (Review Article),” in: Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 21, No. 4, pp. 207-211
– Loffreda S., 1972, “The Synagogue of Capernaum, Archaeological Evidence for its Late Chronology,” in: Liber Annuus, vol. 22, pp. 5-29
– Loffreda S., 1974, Cafarnao II. La Ceramica, Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press
– Kohl H. & Watzinger C., 1975, Antike Synagogen in Galilaea, Reprint Osnabrück: Otto Zeller Verlag, pp. 4-40
– Corbo V., 1975, Cafarnao I. Gli Edifici della Città, Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press
– Spijkerman A., 1975, Cafarnao III. Le Monete della Città, Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press
– Loffreda S., 1976, Ein Besuch in Kapharnaum, Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press
– Hüttenmeister F. & Reeg G., 1977, Die Antiken Synagogen in Israel, 2 vols., Wiesbaden: L. Reichert, pp. 260-270
– Loffreda S., 1979, “Potsherds from a Sealed Level of the Synagogue at Capernaum,” in: Liber Annuus, vol. 39, pp. 215-220
– Avi-Yonah M., 1981, “Some comments on the Chronology of the Synagogue at Capernaum,” in: Levine L. (ed.), Ancient Synagogues Revealed, Jerusalem: The Israel Exploration Society, pp. 60-62
– Foerster G., 1981b, “Notes on Recent Excavations at Capernaum,” in: Ancient Synagogues Revealed, pp. 57-59
– Loffreda S., 1981, “The Late Chronology of the synagogue at Capernaum,” in: Levine L. (ed.), Ancient Synagogues Revealed, Jerusalem: The Israel Exploration Society, pp. 52-56
– Chiat M., 1982, Handbook of Synagogue Architecture, Chico: Scholars Press, pp. 89-97
– Tzaferis V., 1983, “New Archaeological Evidence on Ancient Capernaum,” in: The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 46, No. 4, pp. 198-204
– Loffreda S., 1985, Recovering Capharnaum, Jerusalem: Edizioni Custodi Terra Santa (Reprint 1993 and 1997: Franciscan Printing Press)
– Doron C., 1986, “On the Chronology of the Ancient Synagogue of Capernaum,” in: Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins, Vol. 102, pp. 134-143
– Tzaferis V., 1989, Excavations at Capernaum, Vol. 1 1978-1982, Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns
– Ilan Z., 1991, Ancient Synagogues in Israel, Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defence, p. 156-158 (Hebrew)
– Tzaferis V. & Loffreda S., 1993, “Capernaum,” in: NEAEHL, pp. 291-296
– Arslan E.A., 1996, “Monete Axumite di Imitazione nel Deposito del Cortile della Sinagoga di Cafarnao”, in: Liber Annuus, Vol. 46, pp. 307-316
– Arslan E.A., 1996, “Il Deposito di 20.323 Nummi tardo-romani della Sinagoga di Cafarnao: come procedure a un Campionamento Scientifico,” in: International Numismatic Newsletter, Vol. 29, pp. 6-7
– Arslan E.A., 1997, “Il deposito monetale della Trincea XII nel cortile della sinagoga di Cafarnao,” in: Liber Annuus, vol. 47, pp. 245-328
– Callegher B., 1997, “Un Ripostiglio di Monete d’Oro Bizantine dalla Sinagoga di Cafarnao,” in: Liber Annuus, Vol. 47, pp. 329-338
– Loffreda S., 1997, “Coins from the Synagogue of Capharnaum,” in: Liber Annuus, Vol. 47, pp. 223-244
– Dauphin C. 1998, La Palestine Byzantine: Peuplement et Population, Oxford, Vol. 3, pp. 710-711
– 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
– Arslan A., 2003, “Problemi ponderali di V secolo: verso la riforma del Nummus. Il deposito di Cafranao,” in: Revue Numismatique, Vol. 159, pp. 27-39
– Loffreda S., 2005, Cafarnao V. Documentazione fotografica degli scavi (1968-2003), Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press Milson D., 2007, Art and Architecture of the Synagogue in Late Antique Palestine: in the Shadow of the Church, Leiden/Boston, pp. 335-337
– Callegher B., 2007, Cafarnao IX. Monete dell’area urbana di Cafarnao (1968-2003), Jerusalem: Ed. Terra Santa
– Loffreda S., 2008, Cafarnao VI. Tipologie e contesti stratigrafici della ceramica (1968-2003), Jerusalem: Ed. Terra Santa
– Loffreda S., 2008, Cafarnao VII. Documentazione grafica della ceramica (1968-2003), Jerusalem: Ed. Terra Santa
– Loffreda S., 2008, Cafarnao VIII. Documentazione fotografica degli oggetti (1968-2003), Jerusalem: Ed. Terra Santa
– Arslan E., 2011, “The L812 Trench Deposit inside the Synagogue and the Isolated Finds of Coins in Capernaum, Israel: a Comparison of the Two Groups”, in: Israel Numismatic Research, Vol. 6, pp. 147-162
– Magness J., 2012, “The Pottery from the Village of Capernaum and the Chronology of Galilean Synagogues,” in: Tel Aviv, Vol. 39, No. 2, pp. 110-122
– Spigel C., 2012, Ancient Synagogue Seating Capacities: Methodology, Analysis and Limits, Mohr Siebeck, pp. 173-177
– Hachlili R., 2013, Ancient Synagogues: Archaeology and Art: New Discoveries and Current Research, Leiden: Brill, pp. 23-26, 61-63, 127, 235-239, 483-485
– Ahipaz N., 2015, The Custom of the Ritual Burial of Coins in Synagogues, MA thesis, pp. 61-66 (Hebrew)
– Callegher B., 2016, “Imitations and Proto-Vandalic Nummi in the Circulating Stock in Upper Gallilee between the End of the 5th and Early 6th Century: The Capernaum Deposit (Locus 812),” in: Produktion und Recyceln von Münzen in der Spätantike, RGZM-Tagungen, Vol. 29, pp. 155-196
– Arslan E., 2015, “Problemi di Documentazione preliminare e Finale dei Ritrovamenti Monetary con Grandi Numeri. Due Esperienze: il Ripostiglio di Biassono 1975 e il “Deposito” della Sinagoga di Cafarnao (Israele),” in: Garraffo S.and M. Mazza (eds.), Il Tesorodi Misurata (Libia), pp. 113-127
– Tarkhanova S., 2021, “The Friezes with the “Peopled Scrolls” Motif in the Capernaum Synagogue,” in: Bonnie, Rick, Raimo Hakola, and Ulla Tervahauta (eds.), The Synagogue in Ancient Palestine: Current Issues and Emerging Trends, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, pp. 195-218

Website(s):

– The Bornblum Eretz Israel Synagogues Website:
http://synagogues.kinneret.ac.il/synagogues/capernaum/
– Sanctuary Capernaum:
http://www.capernaum.custodia.org
– Bible Walks:
https://biblewalks.com/Sites/Capernaum.html
– Virtual World Project
http://moses.creighton.edu/vr/Capernaum/site.html

Footnotes

[857] In older publications, the site is sometimes called Tell Hûm.

[858] This date is based on Jodi Magness’ re-evaluation of the pottery and coins found under the building (Magness 2001, pp. 18-26; Magness 2012a). She rightly points out that the excavators, who date the building to the late 4nd to 5rd century, were providing a terminus ante quem for the archaeological finds, instead of a terminus post quem (Loffreda 1979; Loffreda 1981)Since pieces of pottery and hundreds of coins have been found that can be dated to the first half of the 6th century, the synagogue could not have been built earlier than the beginning of the 6th century CE. This date has recently been confirmed by Callegher, who, based on an analysis of the imitation and proto-vandalic nummi coins from Locus 812 in the synagogue, admits that this deposit found was probably closed sometime between 508 and 512 CE (Callegher 2016, p. 166). See also Tarkhanova 2021 for a stylistic confirmation of this date.

[859] The first explorations of the synagogue were conducted by Edward Robinson in 1857, Charles Wilson in 1866, and Victor Guérin in 1870. In 1894, the site and its ruins were acquired by Brother Giuseppe Baldi on behalf of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land. Excavations started in 1905 both by the German scholars Heinrich Kohl and Carl Watzinger, and the Franciscan Wendelin Hinterkeuser. From 1921 to 1926 the Franciscan monk Gaudenzio Orfali excavated the church at Capernaum and reconstructed a small part of the synagogue. In 1968, the Franciscan fathers Corbo and Loffreda resumed excavations and dug under the floor of the building, revealing thousands of coins (Kohl and Watzinger 1916, pp. 4-5; Sapir and Neeman 1967, pp. 34-37; Loffreda 1976, pp. 10-11; Tzaferis 1989, pp. XVII-XIX; Loffreda 1993, pp. 10-13; Tarkhanova 2021).

[860] Loffreda 1972, p. 9: “In the same year 1971 we cleared the entire area of the eastern aisle where the stone pavement was missing. We reached only the level of the mortar underlying the original stone pavement. Most of the area of the western aisle was also cleared to the same depth.” Loffreda 1997, p. 226: “There we collected 2,922 coins. It was Saturday, September 18, 1971.”

[861] Loffreda 1972, p. 15; Loffreda 1997, p. 226; Callegher 2016, p. 155.

[862] Loffreda 1972, p. 15: It must be stressed that several coins were still embedded in the thick layer of mortar at the time of excavation.

[863] The Cafarnao III book, published by Augustus Spijkerman, only discusses the coins found in the village and the insula sacra.

[864] For this project, I have been in close contact with Bruno Callegher to work through the available information on the Capernaum coins. At some point, Callegher took it upon himself to travel by train from Tieste to Milan to meet Arslan and discuss if they could give me full access to the coins. It was decided that they could not, but I want to express my deepest gratitude for such an extraordinary effort.

[865] Personal communication Callegher. See also Arslan 2011, p. 147, footnote 3, in which he states that he is cataloguing the coins from the entire synagogue, excluding the ones found in Locus 812, while awaiting final publication; and Callegher 2016, footnote 19, in which he notes that the complete photographic campaign was conducted in 2011-2012 with a high-definition scanner (Coin Cabinet SBF-Jerusalem).

[866] Loffreda 1972, p. 15.

[867] Arslan 1997, p. 253, Table III and p. 260, Table V: overview of the minting places (and dates) of 739 coins found in Trench XIV, dated between 335 and 491 CE; p. 261, Table VI: overview of the dates and minting places of 148 coins found in both Trenches XIV and XVIII, dated between 335 and 491 CE.

[868] Arslan 2003, p. 29 mentions that 1616 coins of Trench XIV have been published but I could not identify with certainty those coming from Stratum C or Stratum B in the 1997 publication, if this is indeed the publication to which he is referring.

[869] Loffreda 1972, p. 16. These were not the only gold coins found in the synagogue; according to a publication by Callegher in 1997, 5 solidi and 2 tremisses were found in area S.146 in the synagogue, and another 2 gold coins attributed to Justin II were discovered out of context (Callegher 1997, p. 330). It is not clear, however, where area S.146 is located and if these coins were found under the floor or benches.

[870] Loffreda 1972, p. 16.

[871] All these coins come from an “open level”: areas inside the synagogue building where the stone slabs of the floor were missing (but the bedding was still intact: many of the coins were found in the mortar, showing that they were placed there when the mortar was still fresh). Since only small patches of the ancient stone pavement were preserved inside the building, the excavators did not want to remove and “sacrifice” these stones to look for more coins. Instead, they removed some of the stone pavement of the courtyard where the floor was well preserved (Loffreda 1997, p. 227). Because of this, we do not know if and how many coins are still preserved under the floor of the synagogue.

[872] Spijkerman 1970, pp. 128-135. In 1997, however, Loffreda wrote that there were 86 coins found in Trench II (Loffreda 1997, p. 226).

[873] Loffreda 1997, p. 227: “Later on in 1981 we found also coins in this section, when we opened Trenches 20, 22, 24, 25.”

[874] Loffreda 1972, p. 15.

[875] Loffreda 1979, pp. 215-216.

[876] Callegher 2016, p. 155.

[877] Arslan 1997, p. 260, Table V.

[878] Arslan 1997, p. 261, Table VI.

[879] Loffreda 1997, p. 229. They set aside eight coins found in the first 40 cm beginning from the surface because of the possibility of contamination from above. To be complete, one must point out that Trenches XIV and XVIII were not the only two areas where coins were found in Stratum B. Trench 1 contained one coin, Trench 4 three coins, Trench 11 two coins, Trench 17 one coin, Trench 21 two coins, Trench 22 one coin, Trench 23 nine coins, and Trench 25 three coins. However, none of these finds makes up a “deposit”, and they could have been accidental losses or contaminations.

[880] Arslan 1997, p. 261. The same is true for his 2003 publication, in which he gives an overview of different coin types found at Capernaum but collapses the Stratum B and Stratum C coins found in Trench XIV into one group.

[881] In any case, because the trench was chosen randomly, the coins are presumably part of larger assemblies.

[882] This number, however, is far from clear as Arslan notes in 2015 that only 511 coins from Trench XVIII could be found at the Custody of the Holy Land in Jerusalem (Arslan 2015, p. 117, footnote 17).

[883] Loffreda 1997, p. 227.

[884] Loffreda 1997, p. 227.

[885] Arslan 1996; 1997; Callegher 2007, p. 147; Arslan 2015 which focuses entirely on the difficulty of documenting very large coin finds, with Capernaum as one of the case-studies.

[886] Arslan 1997, p. 251; Arslan 2011, p. 151: here he also states that he did not find any so-called “blank flans” among the synagogue coins, in contrast to the coins found in the settlement at Capernaum. These 37% illegible coins were identified long before the scanning project by Callegher and now are unfortunately lost: they were almost all reburied at the time of the excavations and are no longer recoverable (Arslan 2015, p. 117, footnote 17).

[887] This number of 20,323 has recently been contested by Arslan, who found 20,363 coins and fragmentary coins from this trench at the Custody of the Holy Land in Jerusalem. He also proposes the possibility that the building context of the coins in this trench had been contaminated by later materials. However, as 20,323 is still the number that can be found in the literature on this deposit, and Arslan admits that this higher number also incorporates fragments of coins, I have decided to stick with it for this database.

[888] Arslan 1997, pp. 306-322.

[889] Callegher 2016, p. 155: the selection of the coins defined as “imitations” was made at the time of the initial classification in 1996 and 1997: these were coins that were deemed unusual or problematic because they differed from the prototypes of official mints. 259 coins were selected at that time (1% of the total), of which 182 were published. According to Callegher, the 78 coins that were not chosen would have added nothing new to the published sample. A list of their photograph number at the Coin Cabinet SBF-Jerusalem can be found on p. 168, footnote 21.

[890] See also Magness 2001, p. 23.

[891] However, Bijovsky 1998, pp. 82-83 dates them more precisely to the “6th century, as part of the repertory of Byzantine nummi.”

[892] These weights are based on all coins of these types found in Trench XII, Trench XIV, and various other loci.

Caesarea

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Dates Excavated:

1. 1956, 1962
2. 1982, 1984

Excavator(s):

1. Michael Avi-Yonah
2. The Joint Expedition to Caesarea Maritima (JECM) under direction of Robert J. Bull

Archaeological Information: Field O, Area A

Date of Building Construction:

4th century?

Place of Building in Settlement:
Located inside the northern gate of the city. [933]

Building Description:
Very little is known about the layout of the building, but a final report on the different excavations and surveys done at the synagogue site in Caesarea was published in 2009 by Govaars, Spiro, and White. The authors try to give an accurate overview of the different phases of the building, distinguishing at least four phases to the building: first the structure of Stratum I-III, second, Stratum IV, third, Stratum V, and fourth, a new Stratum VI or a later Phase of Stratum V. In the first three strata the structure was a square building with a cistern. In Stratum IV, which is dated to the late 4th century,[934] the structure apparently was a large hall measuring 18 by 9 meters, oriented east-west with the entrance on the short eastern side facing the town. However, the only evidence for this orientation is a Greek inscription in the pavement facing that direction. The structure of Stratum V is an entirely new building orientated north-south with a narrow entrance hall and a central hall.[935] The building of Stratum IV had a mosaic floor with geometric designs and Greek inscriptions. There is evidence for a platform inside the building, as well as a chancel screen and posts. There is also evidence of an entry hall and an adjoining triclinium.
Based on this information, it is unclear if this building indeed was a synagogue. There are no in situ elements, design or otherwise, associated with a typical synagogue and so its identification has been disputed, including by Jodi Magness.[936]

Maps and Plans


Copyright-Protected Materials (logged-in members only)


First Deposit

Date Excavated: 1962

Deposit Location:

In the plastering of a projection which might have contained the Ark, or close to a wall of the building: the context and exact location are unknown.

Archaeological Information:

Area A, stratum IV [937]

Certain association with the building itself? Yes

Deposit Retrievable? Unknown

Deposit Type: II?4

Deposit Description:

The exact findspot of this deposit of 3700 bronze coins is unknown. One report by Avi-Yonah states that the coins were found “in the plastering of a projection [of the synagogue] nearer the sea.”[938] However, this building has the sea on both the northern and the western sides. Where was this projection? Another report states that the coins were found “near one of the walls,” but does not give additional information as to the precise location of this wall.[939] Govaars, Spiro, and White point out that the differences in the description of the exact findspot thus heighten the uncertainty over the context of the coin deposit. They did ascertain, based on other descriptions in Avi-Yonah’s reports, that “towards the sea”, probably meant “towards the west” of the building.[940] Pictures taken by E. Jerry Vardaman during the excavations show Avi-Yonah and a measuring stick near the coins. The scattering of coins covers approximately 30 X 30 cm.[941] Based on the time of the day (between 11 am and 1 pm) and the position of the shadow, Govaars, Spiro, and White suspect that Avi-Yonah was facing north at the time the picture was taken, which would locate the deposit on his eastern side, west of a wall. If the projection was on the west side of the building, then this deposit was found outside the building. However, all this is highly speculative; as long as we do not have a plan from 1962, it remains impossible to determine exactly where the deposit was found.

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:
According to communications between Ariel and Govaars, Spiro, and White, Yaakov Meshorer was the first to identify and date the 3700 coins, which were, according to him, almost all from the time of Constantius II (latest: 361 CE), but no information was published on this analysis.[942] An unpublished numismatic study was subsequently undertaken by Jean-Michel Gozlan in 1986, who included in his work a descriptive catalogue of coin types.[943] This study is kept at the IAA Coin Department, but is not accessible. Bijovsky used the hoard in her article from 2007 on the possible connection between the Gallus Revolt and coin hoard found at Lod, Israel.[944] She states that the Caesarea deposit has a range between 316 and 361 CE. Only 1172 of the 3700 coins in the hoard were available for this study, and only 429 coins were in a state of preservation that enabled complete identification. Finally, in 2014, Bijovsky published a full catalogue of 1454 of the coins in an online article (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bxuqy-fB_vKrNE5fVHh2Y3hoc0U/view), together with a summarizing article.[945] The same number of coins analyzed in her report is described in the IAA Coin Department database. Sometimes, however, there are discrepancies between the online publication and the IAA database in the weights and sizes of the coins. In these cases, the IAA database has been followed. In cases where the dates are different, the online publication has been followed as the dates seem to be more specific.[946] There are other mistakes in the online report, for example, where multiple IAA numbers appear twice or IAA entries are missing: I have tried to resolve those issues as much as I could in this database. Of the approximately 3700 coins found in the Caesarea deposit, circa 2245 were illegible, leaving us with 1454 or 1455 legible coins.[947] The coins range in date from 315 CE to the end of the 4th or beginning of the 5th century. The bulk of the deposit, however, ranges from 341 to 361 CE, or a span of only 20 years (1332 coins, or 91.5%). Around 59 coins are earlier and include GLORIA EXERCITVS coins, VICTORIAE DD AVGG Q NN coins, VOTA types, She-Wolf with Twins coins, Victory on a Galley coins, and posthumous issues of Constantine I of the quadriga and VN-MR types.[948] Eleven coins are younger and are possibly intrusive: they are common types but appear here in very small quantities, a sign that, according to Bijovsky, they were not originally part of the deposit.[949] All the coins in the deposit can be attributed to the house of Constantine, according to the following break-down: 38 coins of Constantine I, 8 coins of Constantine II, 25 coins of Constans I, 1074 coins of Constantius II, 146 coins of Constantius Gallus, and 61 coins of Julian II. The main coin types are the FEL TEMP REPARATIO types (about 65% of all coins), and the SPES REIPVBLICE types (about 18.5%). The minting place of 871 coins could be determined: 261 are from Antioch (30%), 202 from Alexandria (23%), 108 from Cyzicus (12%), 104 from Constantinople (12%), 53 from Rome (6%), 44 from Heraclea (5%), 36 from Thessalonica (4%), 35 from Nicomedia (4%), 10 from Siscia (1%), 7 from Aquileia, 5 from Arles, 2 from Sirmium, 2 from Trier, and one from Lugdunum. The two coins from Sirmium are the only coins from this mint found in synagogue deposits; they are both FEL TEMP REPARATIO coins of Constantius II, dated 351-355 CE.[950]

Conspectus Table:

Conspectus table Caesarea, 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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References

Bibliography:

– Sukenik E.L., 1951, “More about the ancient Synagogue of Caesarea,” in: Louis M. Rabinowitz Fund for the Excavation of Ancient Synagogues, Bulletin II, pp. 28-30
– Avi-Yonah M., 1960, “The Synagogue of Caesarea (Preliminary report),” in: Louis M. Rabinowitz Fund, Bulletin III, pp. 44-48
– No Author, 1962, “A Hoard of 3,700 Late-Roman Coins from Caesarea,” in Israel numismatic Bulletin, Vols. 3-4, p. 106
– Avi-Yonah M., 1963, “Notes and News ⸺ Caesarea,” in: Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 13, pp. 146-148
– Kadman L., 1967, “The Monetary Development of Palestine in the Light of Coin Hoards,” in: A. Kindler (ed.), The Patterns of Monetary Development in Phoenicia and Palestine in Antiquity, pp. 311–324
– Avi-Yonah M. & Negev A., 1975, “Caesarea,” in: Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, pp. 270-285
– Levine L., 1975, Caesarea under Roman Rule, Leiden: Brill
– Chiat M., 1982, Handbook of Synagogue Architecture, Chico: Scholars Press, pp. 153-158
– Ilan Z., 1991, Ancient Synagogues in Israel, Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defence, pp. 236-237 (Hebrew)
– Avi-Yonah M., 1993 “Caesarea,” in: NEAEHL, pp. 278-279
– Dauphin C. 1998, La Palestine Byzantine: Peuplement et Population, Oxford, Vol. 3, pp. 744-747
– Bijovsky G., 2007, “Numismatic Evidence for the Gallus Revolt: The Hoard from Lod,” in: Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 57, No. 2, pp. 187-203
– Milson D., 2007, Art and Architecture of the Synagogue in Late Antique Palestine: in the Shadow of the Church, Leiden/Boston, pp. 332-334 Govaars M., Spiro M, and White L.M., 2009, The Joint Expedition to Caesarea Maritima Excavations Report: Field O, The Joint Expedition to Caesarea Maritima. Excavation Reports 9, Boston: ASOR
– Magness J., 2010, “Field O: The “Synagogue” Site. Book Review,” in: American Journal of Archaeology, online, January 2010 (114.1) – Spigel C., 2012, Ancient Synagogue Seating Capacities: Methodology, Analysis and Limits, Mohr Siebeck, pp. 171-173
– Hachlili R., 2013, Ancient Synagogues: Archaeology and Art: New Discoveries and Current Research, Leiden: Brill, pp. 121-122, 541, 562
– Raphael K. & Bijovsky G., 2014, “The Coin Hoard from Caesarea Maritima and the 363 CE Earthquake,” in: Israel Numismatic Research, Vol. 9, pp. 173-192

Website(s):

– The Bornblum Eretz Israel Synagogues Website:
http://synagogues.kinneret.ac.il/synagogues/caesarea/
– Bijovsky Catalogue FH hoard final:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bxuqy-fB_vKrNE5fVHh2Y3hoc0U/view
– Bible Walks:
https://biblewalks.com/Sites/Caesarea.html

Footnotes

[933] Remains of a synagogue at Caesarea were first reported in 1932 and the area was partly cleared in 1945 by J. Ory, who started the first, preliminary excavations at the site in 1947 (Avi-Yonah 1960, p. 44; Avi-Yonah 1993, p. 271, p. 278).

[934] This date is uncertain, as the pottery, glass, coins, or other small finds of the building have never been published. I am providing this date based on the analysis of the building by Govaars, Spiro and White.

[935] Raphael and Bijovsky 2014, p. 177.

[936] Govaars et al. 2009, p. 140; Magness 2010.

[937] But according to Govaars, Spiro, and White it is not even certain that the coin hoard can be associated with Stratum IV because of the discrepancies between the written evidence, unknown find spot, and the lack of clear photographic evidence by excavator Avi-Yonah (Govaars et al. 2009, p. 80).

[938] Avi-Yonah, 1963, p. 147. He also suggests that the projection might have contained the Ark. If this is true, then the Ark (or Torah shrine) would not have been placed facing Jerusalem, which is situated southeast of Caesarea.

[939] Avi-Yonah and Negev, 1975, p. 278.

[940] Govaars et al. 2009, p. 42.

[941] Govaars et al. 2009, p. 51 and Fig. 51. I have tried to receive permission to add this picture to this study but was unsuccessful. The rights of all images taken during this excavation campaign lay with the E. Jerry Vardaman Estate (Marylinda Govaars told me they had only received one-time publication permission for the images in their work), which is now affiliated with the Cobb Institute at Mississippi State University. When I reached out to them, they told me that the widow (now remarried) Mrs Alfalene Vardaman still has all the rights, but she is in a frail state and nobody is sure who currently makes decisions on her behalf. Further inquiries in this matter did not receive a reply. The picture, however, can be freely found on the internet (http://www.mythicistpapers.com/2013/07/01/nazareth-the-caesarea-inscription-and-the-hand-of-god-pt-5/).

[942] No Author 1962, p. 106; Govaars et al. 2009, p. 42, and footnote 67 on p. 245.

[943] Mentioned in Bijovsky 2007b, p. 195 and 2014, p. 183, referring to an unpublished article in the coin department of the IAA, Jerusalem, written by Gozlan in 1986.

[944] Bijovsky 2007b.

[945] Bijovsky 2014, pp. 183-186.

[946] These decisions were made after deliberations with Gabriela Bijovsky and Donald Ariel.

[947] Bijovsky mentions 1453 analyzed coins in her 2014 article (p. 183), but her online catalogue gives information on 1454 coins. The IAA database has 1455 coins.

[948] Bijovsky cites a couple of noteworthy coins within this group: two posthumous issues of Constantine I (one Aeterna Pietas type from Lyons and a Ivstvenmem type from Nicomedia depicting Aequitas), a coin of Constantine I from Trier reading VIRTVS AVGGNN, and a rare coin Constantine I coin from Antioch with the Constantinvs Avg reverse type.

[949] Bijovsky 2014, pp. 184-185. If they are intrusive, then the deposit ends around 361 CE.

[950] Although this deposit is not comparable to any ancient synagogue deposit, Bijovsky compares it to a hoard from the village of ancient Qasrin, which has a similar date and make-up of types and minting places (Bijovsky 2014, p. 186).

Beth She’arim

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Dates Excavated:

1936-1940

Excavator(s):

Benjamin Mazar

Archaeological Information: Building B

Date of Building Construction:

Phase I: 3rd- early 4th century (Period IIIA)[785]
Phase II: 1st half of 4th century (Period IIIB)[786]

Place of Building in Settlement:
On the northeastern side of a hill, overlooking the structures on the slopes. [787] The settlement was surrounded by a wall. Building B is a public building of at least two stories high, northwest of the synagogue building proper. Possibly the buildings belonged to the same “synagogue-complex.”

Building Description:
Phase I: (=Period IIIA) This was a south-west north-east basilica synagogue with two rows of eight columns. By the northwest wall was a raised platform between the columns that could have been the base for a bemah. The floor was paved with flagstones. There were three doorways in the southeast wall that connected to a courtyard. The courtyard had two cisterns. This synagogue was built as an addition to Building B, which was erected during Period II (2nd half 2nd century to beginning of 3rd century). Building B was affected by many changes during Period III. Phase II: (=Period IIIB) Two doors in the southeast wall were enclosed, creating niches. The raised platform remained in use. The walls were coated in colored plaster and marble slabs with various decorations, and inscriptions were affixed to them. Far reaching changes were made to the annex buildings and building B, which served in this period as a large private residence. The buildings were eventually destroyed by a fire, probably around 350 CE. [788]

Maps and Plans


Other Materials

Copyright-Protected Materials (logged-in members only)


First Deposit

Date Excavated: 1939

Deposit Location:

In the basement of the building

Archaeological Information:

Room 8 of Building B, northwest of the synagogue

Certain association with the building itself? No; found in burnt debris [789]

Deposit Retrievable? Unknown

Deposit Type: II?3

Deposit Description:

1200 bronze coins found in the burnt debris in the basement of Building B at the end of Period III.[790]

Container Present? No

Description of Coins:

The coins found in 1939 in the synagogue site at Beth She’arim were never published. The only published reference to the coins is in Mazar’s report of 1973, in which he alludes to the 1200 bronze coins found in Building B, stating thatmost of the coins are of the period of Constantine the Great, Constantine II (335-340 CE), Constans I (335-350 CE), and Constantius II. There are a few of Helena with Constantine, Licinius (307-323 CE), Fausta, wife of Constantine, and his sons Crispus (died 327 CE) and Dalmatius (died 337 CE).”[791]
Gabriela Bijovskyre-examined the coins for her 2007 article on the revolt of Gallus and identified 616 poorly preserved bronze coins.[792]According to her, the bulk of the coins are dated to the last quarter of the 3rdcentury to the ‘30s of the 4thcentury CE. There are, however, a couple of later coins: a coin of Constans I (348-350 CE), a fallen horseman coin of Constantius II (roughly 346-355 CE), a “Victory dragging captive” coin (383-395 CE), a “cross” (395-408 CE), and finally a worn coin dated from the 2ndhalf of the 4thcentury to the 5thcentury.
In the fall of 2019, I was able to access the archeological depot of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, with permission from Yosef Garfinkel, Head of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University, and Zeev Weiss, the Eleazar L. Sukenik Professor of Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology. I was allowed to visit the depot for two full days, and with the help of Daphna Tsoran, the Curator of the Collection of Institute of Archeology, I was able to examine the Beth She’arim coins, which are now stored in the coin safe at the Institute. In total, 615 legible coins from the basement deposit are stored in a wooden box. On my first day, I sorted the coins according to their emperor and type. On the second day, I took photographs of the obverse and reverse sides of all 615 coins. Back at my office, I tried to identify and date each coin. However, I did not have the time to measure and weigh the coins for my database. Some coins are also difficult to analyze from the photos I took. All mistakes or inaccurate identifications are thus mine.[793]
If we assume that 1200 coins were originally found in the deposit, then 585 coins are missing from the coin safe. Perhaps these were not legible and thus were not kept. For the sake of completeness, they have been added to the database as “unknown.”
Of the 615 legible coins, I was able to date 577 coins with certainty. Of these, only one coin is older than 300 CE: a coin of Probus, dated to 276-282 CE. All other coins are from the 4thcentury, with 96.5% of the coins having aterminus postquemof the second quarter of the 4thcentury. Of the 615 coins, the emperors of 522 could be determined. 258 coins are of Constantine I (49.5%), 138 coins of Constantine II (26.5%), 93 coins of Constantius II (18%), 24 coins of Constans I (4.5%), 6 coins of Crispus (1%), and 1 coin of Licinius I (0.5%). All eastern mints are represented, with a predominance of Antioch. Only 1 coin could be attributed to Arles: a follis minted by Constantine I (322-323 CE).
Interestingly enough, 364 of the 586 coins, or 62% of the coins are of the GLORIA EXERCITVS-type. I could not find the late coins that Bijovsky identified. Unfortunately, she does not provide any coin numbers in her article, so it is difficult to determine to which coins she was referring. Hopefully, a future full publication of this deposit will solve this problem.

Coins