Frescoes discovered in Zippori


During the last excavations in Zippori, a team from the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found numerous fragments of objects, which are likely to be pieces of frescoes from the time when the region was under Roman rule.
Zippori today is a National Park, but it was a major urban center for the Jews who inhabited Galilee during the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Period.

The fragments found present figurative images, floral illustrations and geometric motifs. They were part of the decoration of a monumental building built at the beginning of the second century AD It is believed that this building occupied a very large area of the city, although it is not yet known exactly what was its purpose at the time, however, everything indicates that it had been an important public building because of the nature of the artifacts found.

Several deposits were found in the huge building, which were probably used as water cisterns. The construction was demolished in the third century AD for unknown reasons, and was replaced by another public building, even larger than the previous one. Because of this, it is possible to observe during the current excavations several remnants of the first construction, including pieces of burned wood and walls from which It is possible to see plaster fractions that belonged to the rooms of the first construction.

 

Sepphoris gerneral view         the decumanus


The illustrations on the walls are varied and very colorful, with geometric figures and bright colors. Other fragments have floral motifs. Even more important and interesting are the parts found that refer to some figure, such as the head of a lion, the horn of an animal, a bird and others, usually presented on a dark background. One of the fragments represents a man holding a club like weapon.

Archaeological research on these findings is still in its initial stages, but it is already possible to say that at least one of the rooms in the building has been decorated with images that probably represent exotic animals and birds in different positions.

The population of Zippori before the Great Revolt against the Romans was small, the archaeological findings of this time are highlighted by the absence of human or animal figures. After the Great Revolt, the Jews of Galilee have a different attitude towards the Romans.
Thanks to its loyalty to Rome during the Great Revolt, Zippori gained polis status and as recognition, received the construction of public monuments, such as the remnants of this grandiose building found in the excavations.

 

A bull's head in a fresco            Zodiac, the Sepphoris synagogue


 
The new findings of Zippori contribute significantly to the research on Roman art in Israel. In addition to these findings, there are believed to be several others such as these scattered throughout the Holy Land, mainly dating from King Herod's Reign.

Zippori is known for its sumptuous and unique mosaics and this new find offers a whole range of new information on the murals of Roman Palestine. The new frescoes discovered now become part of the rich cultural material of the city. Prior to the discovery of these mosaics, previous objects had already been found in the region, also of great history, but considered even more ancient.

 

 

 


Some questions of a social and historical nature are raised after these new discoveries. Who started the construction of the monumental building discovered north of the decumanus (the large road dissecting the city from East to West)? Who was responsible for choosing the illustrations on the wall and for whom they were made? One thing is certain, the latest discoveries indicate that Zippori, known as the Jewish capital of Galilee, was inhabited by several Jewish inhabitants during the Roman Period, but it also had a large pagan community, which is why the temple had been built south of the decumanus opposite the monumental building where the findings were made.

Although it is still difficult to say who was responsible for the construction of the monument. What can be said from these new excavations is that life in Zippori had a multicultural climate after the Great Revolt in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries CE.

 

 

 

Photos:

1. Sepphoris, General View
Courtesy of Prof. Zeev Weiss, The Sepphoris Excavations,
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Photo: G. Laron

2. Sepphoris, the decumanus
Courtesy of Prof. Zeev Weiss, The Sepphoris Excavations, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Photo: G. Laron

3. A bull's head in a fresco from Sepphoris
Courtesy of Prof. Zeev Weiss, The Sepphoris Excavations, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Photo: G. Laron

4. Zodiac, the Sepphoris synagogue
Courtesy of Prof. Zeev Weiss, The Sepphoris Excavations, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Photo: G. Laron

5. Sepphoris, Workers at the site
Courtesy of Prof. Zeev Weiss, The Sepphoris Excavations, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Photo: Z. Weiss

 

 

 

 

 

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