El Araj Excavations Day 15 (Week 4/Day 1). We began our fourth and final week of the 2018 excavation season before sunrise. The pace of our work is picking up as we work to unearth what we can through our final day on Thursday. Today also saw an increase in the number of student volunteers. Thirty students from Kinneret College joined us today for the final week of excavations. In addition we have a handful of one-day volunteers who show up and want to participate. Even after only one day, this increased labor has left a significant impact on the site. The students from Kinneret College have opened up four new squares. In addition they are working alongside our participants to deepen existing squares and to remove the large Crusader wall. Removal of this wall is important to discover the Byzantine construction underneath it. This year we have 17 participants from Hong Kong. We even have 2 two-year olds who join us on site and add considerable joy to our efforts. This group of volunteers has concentrated their yeoman efforts to Area B and have gone quickly from the Byzantine to Roman levels. Today they made one of the most important discoveries of the season - a nozzle from a knife-pared Herodian lamp. These lamps were made in Jerusalem prior to 70 CE and were used almost exclusively by Jewish populations. Found in Galilee this lamp may have been brought back by a Bethsaida pilgrim to Jerusalem. The historical significance for finding this style of Herodian lamp at el-Araj is that it is further evidence of a Jewish population in the first century CE at el Araj - strengthening the argument that el Araj was the location of first-century Bethsaida. In the squares of these volunteers they also found remains from four other lamps (in the picture can be seen black, red, and white remnants). Other finds of the day included a small basalt millstone in Square B3. We continue to excavate in the Ottoman septic tank. Towards the end of the day we came upon a well plastered floor, which often is used as a base for mosaics. This has encouraged us that we are on the right track for the possible finding of the colored Roman mosaic reported in 1929.
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