The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced that the community excavation at Usha has discovered a 1,400-year-old Byzantine hammer and nails. This is one of only six Byzantine hammers to have been found in Israel. This specific discovery was made by a volunteer family, among 8,500 volunteers conducting community excavations over the recent Sukkot holidays.
Usha, an ancient city in the western Galilee, is where the Sanhedrin–the central Jewish council–reformed after the defeat of Bar Kokhba, whose revolt in 135 C.E. led the Jewish people to a devastating defeat at the hands of the Romans.
The excavations at Usha, led by Yair Amitzur and Eyad Bisharat for the Israel Antiquities Authority, have found the remnants of extensive glass manufacture, glass vessels as well as the lumps that formed the raw material for manufacture. They have also uncovered oil and winepresses. Two ritual baths made of rock with plastered steps and walls were discovered nearby. These baths, built during the Roman and Byzantine periods, suggest that the olive oil and wine were processed according to Jewish law in ritual purity.
Like the Byzantine Hammer and nails, all that has been discovered serves as tools to help researchers better understand ancient Jewish life in the Galilee. The Usha excavations are only one part of the IAA’s Sanhedrin Trail Project, following the path of the Sanhedrin from Bet Shearim to Tiberias.
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