Earthquake and Recent Finds at Susita
Excavation continues at Susita, the site on the hills overlooking the east bank of Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee. The finds were discovered under the roof of a building that collapsed in the earthquake of 363 CE. Susita was also called Hippos as it sits like a horse on a hilltop 350m. above the lake. According to the excavator, Dr. Michael Eisenberg of Haifa University, the collapsed building, the largest on the site, was a basilica that served as a marketplace, and a number of skeletons were discovered under its collapsed roof. One of them was of a young woman who was wearing a golden dove-shaped pendant. Also found was the marble leg of a statue that may have been 2m. high, that of a god or an athlete. The earthquake of 363 was a powerful one and completely destroyed the city, which took twenty years to be rebuilt and, according to Eisenberg, there was a later earthquake of 749 CE, which destroyed the city completely – the city was never rebuilt. The city had a bastion of the Roman period that overlooked the lake and there the archaeologists found a catapult-like machine that would have been 8m. long and could have launched massive stone ammunition, some of which was still extant at the site.
Ancient Mikveh – Recent Graffiti, South of Beit Shemesh
In a rescue dig at the Ha’Ela junction, before the widening of Route 38, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has uncovered an ancient mikveh, believed to be dated to about 100 CE, and a massive water cistern of about two hundred years later. Great interest centred on the fact that the ceiling of the cistern had been scratched with the names of two Australian soldiers at the time of the British Mandate. According to Yoav Tsur of the IAA, the find “allows us to reconstruct a double story – a Jewish settlement of the second century CE, probably against the background of the Bar-Kochba Revolt and another story, no less fascinating, about a group of Australian soldiers who visited the site 1,700 years later and left their mark”. They left their names, Corporals Scarlett and Walsh and their numbers in the RAE (Royal Australian Engineers) with the date 30/5/1940.
According to the IAA, research shows that Scarlett died in 1970 and Walsh in 2005, but the IAA will contact their families to tell them about the find. The Israel National Roads Company has agreed to slightly change the junction layout so that the finds can be incorporated in the adjacent landscaping.
Latin Inscription Found in Jerusalem
Although found in July, this inscription from the time of the reign of the Emperor Hadrian was only recently displayed to the public at the Rockefeller Museum. It is on a large stone, weighing one ton and was found in secondary use as part of the cover of a deep cistern, with part of the stone cut out in a semi-circle to accommodate a small manhole cover to the cistern.
The inscription reads (in translation):To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Pathicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the fourteenth time, consul for the third time, father of the country (dedicated by) the tenth legion Fretensis Antoniniana
It is dated to the year 129/130 CE, when Hadrian was touring his eastern colonies and dedicated the rebuilt Jerusalem as Colonia Aelia Capitolina. The inscription is in fine classic Roman lettering and according to Dr. Rina Avner who led the IAA team that located it, “there is no doubt that this is one of the most important official Latin inscriptions that have been discovered in this country.”
The other half of the inscription, which was found many years ago by the French diplomat Charles Clermont-Ganneau, is on display in the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum at the Lion’s gate of the old City.
The new inscription find was the subject of a day-long seminar last week at the Rockefeller Museum, where it will shortly be put on permanent display.
Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, Jerusalem