Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009. 471 pp. (hardcover)
Reviewed by Michael Eisenberg
The historical events that took place in Galilee, mainly during the Roman and Byzantine periods, make it a significant area of research and importance to Judaism and Christianity. Both played a major role in those events.
The best tool to study the region’s settlements, geographical features, industry and ethnicity is an archaeological survey. Uzi Leibner undertook this task. He surveyed the northern part of Eastern Lower Galilee, an area of about 285 km2 (70,425 acres). He focused on the period between the Hellenistic period and the end of the Byzantine period (300 B.C.E.–650 C.E.). Whether through archaeological evidence or early written sources, almost a millennium of human heritage is reviewed and examined in a rural area west of the Sea of Galilee, an area that barely “suffered” from modern development, hence allowing better observation of the ancient environment and settlements.
The pottery, as usual, serves as the major variable. With the guidance of Professor David Adan-Bayewitz, nowadays perhaps the leading pottery expert on the Galilee during the Roman Period, Leibner analyzes potsherds according to their typology, chronology, quantity and distribution within a site. On this basis, he determined periods of occupation and size of the site.
Validation of surveyed results requires a comprehensive dig. It was only natural that Leibner chose Khirbet Hamam as the most promising site in his survey, having already started his excavation season there in 2007. Leibner focuses on the synagogue and its surroundings. The results of the dig correlate highly with the survey. The settlement and the synagogue were deserted during the mid-fourth century C.E., apparently after the earthquake of 363.
This book effectively portrays life in this part of Galilee during the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods. It contains in-depth conclusions regarding the historical events and their correlation with the survey data. The book is an essential tool for those concerned with the Galilee, historians as well as archaeologists.
Michael Eisenberg is the project director of the Hippos-Sussita Excavations under the auspices of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa.
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