BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Bar Kokhba Tunnels in the Galilee

Tunnels from Second Revolt discovered at Huqoq

Bar Kokhba Tunnels

Tunnels at Huqoq used during the Bar Kokhba Revolt. Courtesy Emil Aladjem, IAA.

Excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) have revealed a complex of underground tunnels built by the Jewish residents of Huqoq, in central Galilee, around the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, also known as the Second Jewish Revolt (c. 132–136 CE). Huqoq’s residents used the tunnel system to escape from Roman soldiers and was built to minimize the effectiveness of the Roman soldiers’ heavy armor.

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Hiding at Huqoq

The tunnel system at Huqoq is the largest yet discovered in the Galilee from this period and sheds light on the geographic extent of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, a dramatic episode in a centuries-long conflict between Judeans and Romans that led to the destruction of the Second Temple nearly 70 years earlier. Excavations suggest the system was initially constructed during the First Jewish Revolt (c. 66–70 CE), but was dramatically expanded during later Bar Kokhba Revolt.

Huqoq ring

A small ring discovered in the Huqoq tunnels. Courtesy Dafna Gazit, IAA.

To build the system, the residents converted an existing water cistern, digging out narrow tunnels that allowed them to maneuver underneath the houses of the village above. At one point, they also broke the walls of the town’s ritual bath (mikveh) to create an additional entryway to the tunnel system. The system included eight separate hiding cavities and tunnels that were dug at 90-degree angles to slow the movement of armored Roman soldiers who might venture into the tunnels. In its excavations, the IAA also discovered broken clay and glass dishes and a ring that belonged to a woman or child.

Previous excavations at Huqoq have revealed an impressive Byzantine period (c. 324–634 CE) synagogue containing one of the best-preserved mosaics of late antique Galilee. Located near the secret tunnels, the synagogue is a testament to the resilience of the local Jewish population.

According to excavation directors Uri Berger and Yinon Shivtiel, “The hiding complex provides a glance at a tough period of the Jewish population in Huqoq and in the Galilee in general. However, the story that the site tells is also an optimistic story of an ancient Jewish town that managed to survive historical tribulations. It is a story of residents who, even after losing their freedom, and after many hard years of revolts, came out of the hiding complex, and established a thriving village, with one of the most impressive synagogues in the area.”

Huqoq

Aerial view of Huqoq. Courtesy Emil Aladjem, IAA.

Discovered with the help of local high school students, the tunnels demonstrate that the Bar Kokhba Revolt extended well beyond the region of Judea. “It is not certain that the complex was used for hiding and escaping during the Second Revolt, but it does appear to have been prepared for this purpose,” the directors said. “We hope future excavations will bring us closer to the answer.”


Read more in Bible History Daily:

Rare Bar Kokhba Revolt Coins Found

Ancient Wonders—The Huqoq Mosaics

All-Access members, read more in the BAS Library:

Jewish Revolts

Inside the Huqoq Synagogue

Roman Cult, Jewish Rebels Share Jerusalem Cave Site

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