El Araj (Bethsaida-Julias) Excavation Project Season 6 (2022) Week 3 Day 2 (Monday) - Today was the last of our "topsy turvy" days. We have been negotiating with the National Parks Authority on the removal of the 3 dead eucalyptus trees. Finally they removed them this morning. So, we pivoted in the morning to visit the church/monastery of Kursi (Gergesa) which remembers Jesus' sending the demons into the herd of swine. The complex was built around the same time as our basilica/monastery at el Araj (late 5th-early 6th centuries), has a number of similar features (baptistery, bath house, monastery) and its mosaics have some of the same floral designs. We were led by Achia KohnTavor, our field director who completed his PhD thesis on the churches of western Galilee. We followed our visit with a lecture by Achia at our residence at Migdal. We had expected to dig in the afternoon, but typical to the surprises in our two weeks, a nest of bees fell from the fallen trees into our excavation site, preventing us from digging until it was removed in the evening. In the afternoon Motti Aviam took us to the synagogue of Hammat Tiberias, the first century theater of Tiberias, and a visit to Kinneret College to see some of the architectural pieces found at el Araj in previous seasons. Nothing went quite as planned, but it was a great day!
El Araj (Bethsaida-Julias) Excavation Project Season 6 (2022) Week 3 Day 3 (Tuesday) - Today we were finally back in the squares excavating with some fantastic progress. The area near the baptistery has been particularly significant. Another medallion inscription was uncovered but is currently illegible from calcium deposits. It will undergo conservation with the hope of unlocking the purpose and date of the basilica. Several coins were also unearthed today, from Roman to Byzantine to early Islamic. In their own way they help mark the history of this site. Only two days left and we feel our excavation season slipping away.