Reports from the Field: Day 14 @ El Araj
El Araj Excavations Day 14 (Week 3/Day 5). Today we unearthed the most significant finds of this season. We only have one week left and the pace of work is increasing as we seek to understand more about this fascinating site's past. At the beginning of the day we began to dig down through the mosaic floors of area A1 where the Roman bathhouse was found last year. In area B2 the unfinished Corinthian capital was finally removed and tagged. After our midmorning breakfast a series of finds came to light one right after another. First, in area B3 the base for a chancel screen was found that separated the congregation from the altar in a Byzantine church. This feature only occurs in churches and lays to rest the question of whether we are excavating within a Byzantine church. Then another capital was unearthed. However, this one is different from any found thus far. The style of the capital resembles the Doric style and is common in first-century synagogues. It matches those seen in the first-century synagogue at Magdala. These two finds may give us an indication that el Araj was once the location of both a synagogue and a church, a rarity in the Galilee and the Golan in antiquity. Only Capernaum and Kursi (settlements also on the Sea of Galilee) are known to have both. More portions of red Pompeiian frescoes were found - another indication of the urbanization of site by Herod Philip. Coins and beautiful Roman glass were among other discoveries from the day. One final development is unique to our site. We widened the ceiling of an Ottoman septic tank because there is a report that in 1929 when the workers were building it they came across a colored Roman/Byzantine mosaic. For the balance of the morning we were excavating in search of these mosaics. We ended our day's labors with great expectations for Sunday morning and the beginning of our final week. In the afternoon Motti Aviam guided the group through Sepphoris, capital of the Galilee when Jesus was growing up in nearby Nazareth.