by Dina Avshalom Gorni
Source: Hadashot Arkheologiyot Excavations ans Surveys in Israel, 121 (2009)
During April 2006, a trial excavation was conducted along the northwestern fringes of Migdal, at the ‘Recital Beach’ on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Permit No. A-4726; map ref. NIG 248663–96/747629–64; OIG 198663–96/247629–64; ESI 13:28, ESI 16:34–35) in the wake of a project to replace the salt-water carrier. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Meqorot Water Company, was directed by D. Avshalom-Gorni, with the assistance of A. Mokary and H. Bron (area supervision), Y. Ya‘aqoby (administration), A. Hajian (surveying), H. Smithline (field photography) and N. Getzov (guidance).The site is situated along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, c. 4 km north of Tiberias. The current excavation was carried out c. 500 m south of a previous excavation (‘Atiqot 42:9*–25* [Hebrew]) that exposed remains from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods.
The excavation area (c. 120 sq m) revealed settlement remains from the Hellenistic, Early Roman and Late Roman periods.
Stratum I: The Hellenistic period
Finds from this period were exposed throughout the excavation area in a layer of small–medium sized pebbles, which is characteristic of the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The foundations of buildings that consisted of large unworked stones were discovered. The southwestern corner of a building (W234, W235; Fig. 1) was exposed at the northern end of the excavation area. The corner of another building was revealed in the southern part of the excavation area.
Fragments of imported pottery vessels, such as Eastern Terra Sigillata and Rhodian amphorae, as well as locally produced pottery, dating to the Hellenistic period, were attributed to this stratum.
Stratum II: The Early Roman period
Building foundations of natural unworked stones were exposed. These were preserved two to three courses high and building stone collapse was found near them.
The ceramic finds ascribed to this stratum included fragments of pottery vessels that dated to the Early Roman period, including storage, cooking and serving vessels, the overwhelming majority of which were produced in local workshops. Other artifacts included fragments of stone bowls and glass vessels, as well as coins.
Stratum III: The Late Roman period
Buildings, which were founded on top of wall foundations and the collapse layer from the Early Roman period (Stratum II) and maintained the same building alignment, were exposed. The walls were built of roughly hewn basalt stones and survived two courses high above the rooms’ floors. Two building complexes in the south and north, separated by an east–west oriented alley, were uncovered.
The northern end of an elongated building (W232, W240, W222; Fig. 2) was exposed in the southern complex. It consisted of a courtyard, paved with basalt flagstones and enclosed within W252 in the north, W222 in the west and W244 in the south; a passageway from the courtyard led to a room, enclosed within W223 in the north and W222 in the east, which was paved with plaster and tamped earth.
Three buildings, a storehouse; a building with installations; and another building, were exposed in the northern complex.
The storehouse was a square structure (W203, W206, W212), partitioned by Wall 204. A carefully tamped gray plaster floor (thickness c. 0.2 m) was well preserved in the southern room and six complete store jars were found in situ above it.
All that remained of the second building was its southwestern corner (W205, W227). Three steps built of roughly hewn stones, which led to the roof of the building or to a second story, were uncovered in the western side of the corner. A circular and a square installation, connected by an opening, were exposed next to W227. A poorly preserved floor of plaster and tamped soil was exposed in the space between W203 and W227. A number of roughly hewn basalt beams that were probably used to support the roof of the building were found in situ on top of this floor.
Another building (W229, W250), which included two rooms with tamped-plaster floors, was discovered at the northern end of the excavation area.
The artifacts attributed to this stratum comprised pottery vessels, including jars, cooking vessels and serving vessels that were all manufactured in local workshops, as well as fragments of glass vessels, coins, clay lamps, lead fishing weights, a large basalt basin and a basalt millstone.
A preliminary examination of the excavation findings shows that the settlement at the site had begun in the Hellenistic period (second–first centuries BCE), continued uninterrupted throughout the Early Roman period (mid-first century BCE–beginning of second century CE) and ended in the Late Roman period (third century CE).
The ceramic finds indicate that during the Hellenistic period, pottery vessels were locally produced, as well as imported. The pottery vessels in the Roman period included no imported vases and were similar to those produced in the workshops of Kefar Hananya, which is mentioned in Jewish sources. Fragments of limestone measuring cups were found together with these vessels. These finds seem to corroborate the historical sources that listed Migdal as a Jewish settlement.
The finds from this excavation and from previous excavations at the site underline the historical sources from the Second Temple period, regarding the existence of a large settlement named Migdal Taricheae. The collapse layer, which dated to the Second Temple period (Stratum II) further substantiated Josephus’ story about the destruction of the city in the Great Revolt. The results of the excavations indicate that during the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods, the settlement was located further north and did reach the current excavation area.