Bible and archaeology news
For the first time at the ancient city of Sepphoris in Israel’s Galilee, wall painting fragments displaying figurative images have been discovered. The fragments were part of plaster wall paintings known as frescoes that once decorated a monumental building from the second century C.E. Prof. Zeev Weiss, the Eleazar L. Sukenik Professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, is Director of excavations at Sepphoris.
Just four miles north of Nazareth, Sepphoris (Zippori in Hebrew) was a thriving urban center during the time of Jesus in the first century C.E. With the conclusion of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome in 70 C.E., ancient Jewish historian Josephus reports that the residents of Sepphoris welcomed the Roman garrison into the city as a pacifist strategy.
Following the First Jewish Revolt, also called the Great Revolt, in the late first through third centuries, the city experienced a building boom with the construction of such structures as public buildings, a marketplace, a theater, an aqueduct system and public bathhouses.
The Galilee is one of the most evocative locales in the New Testament—the area where Jesus was raised and where many of the Apostles came from. Our free eBook The Galilee Jesus Knew focuses on several aspects of Galilee: how Jewish the area was in Jesus’ time, the ports and the fishing industry that were so central to the region, and several sites where Jesus likely stayed and preached.
The building in which the fresco fragments were recently found was erected north of the city’s main colonnaded east–west street (called the decumanus). The fragments displayed a variety of bright colors and designs, including geometric and floral patterns. Of special interest were fragments depicting both human and animal figures: a lion, a bird, a tiger, a horned animal—maybe a bull—and a man holding a club.
According to a Hebrew University of Jerusalem press release, “[A]rchaeological finds dating [before the Great Revolt at Sepphoris] are particularly notable for the absence of figurative images—both humans and animals. The construction of the Roman city of [Sepphoris] after the Great Revolt … is indicative of a change in the attitude of Galilean Jews toward Rome and its culture.”
Who commissioned the building of this monumental structure decorated with colorful frescoes? Was the person Jewish? Roman?
“It is difficult to determine who was responsible for the construction and decoration of this monumental building at this stage of excavation,” reports the press release. “However, the new finds clearly reflect the multi-cultural climate that characterizes [Sepphoris] in the years following the Great Revolt.”
Sepphoris Inscriptions Reference Rabbis
Egyptian Scarab Amulet Unearthed at Sepphoris
Excavating in Jewish Galilee by James Riley Strange
An Ancient Jewish Lamp Workshop in the Galilee
2,200-Year-Old Duck-Shaped Shovel Unearthed in Ancient Galilee
Mark Chancey and Eric M. Meyers, “Spotlight on Sepphoris: How Jewish Was Sepphoris in Jesus’ Time?” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2000.
Tsvika Tsuk, “Spotlight on Sepphoris: Bringing Water to Sepphoris,” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2000.
Richard A. Batey, “Sepphoris—An Urban Portrait of Jesus,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1992.
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