El Araj Excavations Season 7 Day 1 – Today we resumed our excavations at Khirbet El Araj (New Testament Bethsaida). The first impression this morning was the heat and humidity. Today it rose to 105°F (41°C) with high humidity. For this reason, we were on site at 5:30AM and excavated until noon. After a brief morning introduction from Motti Aviam, we selected our squares and began to work. This season the focus of the excavation is on four tasks: excavating along the northern wall of the church to answer some nagging questions, returning after five years to the area adjacent to the Roman baths, expanding area D where there are Roman period houses about 150 meters west of the church, and excavating beneath the apse in places where the mosaic floor no longer exists. I have chosen to excavate through the floor of the apse to determine if there were Roman period structures beneath the church. The results from the first day were good. In Area D, they found two coins (likely Roman). There is good progress along the northern wall of the church and in the apse with the latter starting to produce Roman pottery – a good sign of more to come. The most remarkable find today was in the new squares along the Roman bath. They uncovered a beautifully worked basalt stone that served as a pilaster probably to some public building. It likely belonged to the Roman period but further work will be needed to determine this. Again, it was a good start to the season and we look forward to remarkable finds once more.
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