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Old 01-27-2016, 04:09 PM
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Exclamation 1,700-year-old Inscriptions Linked to ‘Rabbis’ Unearthed in Galilee

1,700-year-old Inscriptions Linked to ‘Rabbis’ Unearthed in Galilee

"The wealth of inscriptions from the cemeteries attests to the strong Jewish presence and the city’s social elite in the Late Roman period," says archaeologist.

Three 1,700-year-old funeary inscriptions referring to rabbis written in Aramaic and Greek were recently unearthed in Moshav Zippori, near the Western Galilee, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on Wednesday.

The finding was made following a joint effort carried out by residents of the moshav, researchers from the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology of the Kinneret Academic College, and the IAA.

According to the IAA, two Aramaic inscriptions mention individuals referred to as “rabbis,” who were buried in the western cemetery of Zippori, although their names have yet to be deciphered.

“The importance of the epitaphs lies in the fact that they reflect the everyday life of the Jews of Zippori and their cultural world,” said Dr. Motti Aviam of the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology.

“Researchers are uncertain as to the meaning of the term ‘rabbi’ at the time when Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nasi resided in Zippori together with the Tannaim, and after him by the Amoraim, the large groups of sages that studied in the city’s houses of learning.”

A notable surprise in the newly discovered inscriptions, Aviam said, is that one of the deceased was named “The Tiberian.”

“This is already the second instance of someone from Tiberias being buried in the cemetery at Zippori,” the researcher said. “It is quite possible that Jews from various parts of Galilee were brought to Zippori to be buried in the wake of the important activity carried out there by Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nasi.”

Another possibility, Aviam postulated, is that “the man moved to Zippori and died there, but wanted to be remembered as someone who originally came from Tiberias.”

“In the second Aramaic epitaph the word le-olam (forever) appears for the first time in inscriptions found at Zippori,” he said.

“The term le-olam is known from funerary inscriptions in Bet She’arim, and elsewhere, and means that the deceased’s burial place will remain his forever, and that no one will take it from him. Both inscriptions end with the Hebrew blessing shalom.” Additionally, the Greek inscription mentions the name Jose, which was very common amongst Jews living in Israel and abroad, said Aviam.

To date, 17 funerary inscriptions have been documented in the Zippori study, most of them written in Aramaic, which was the everyday language of Jews in Israel at that time, the IAA said.

“Contrasting this are the funerary inscriptions found in Tiberias, the second capital of the Galilee, which were mainly written in Greek,” said Aviam.

“Several of the ancient inhabitants from Zippori are mentioned in these inscriptions, which include the names of rabbis, and often have the names of the professions they were engaged in. Aramaic was the everyday language used by the Jews in the period of the Mishnah and Talmud, but some of them also spoke and read Greek, and thus there are also funerary inscriptions in that language.” Zippori was the first capital of the Galilee from the time of the Hasmonean Dynasty, until the establishment of Tiberias in the first century CE. The city continued to be central and important later on, and was where Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nasi resided and compiled the Mishnah.

“Jewish life in the city was rich and diverse, as indicated by the numerous ritual baths (miqwe’ot) discovered in the excavation,” continued Aviam. “While at the same time, the influence of Roman culture was also quite evident, as reflected in the design of the town with its paved streets, colonnaded main roads, theater, and bathhouses.”

“The wealth of inscriptions from the cemeteries attests to the strong Jewish presence and the city’s social elite in the Late Roman period,” he added.

The inscriptions will be studied by a team of researchers, including Aviam, Aharoni Amitai, and the historian Dr. Jacob Ashkenazi of the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology, and Miki Peleg, the Lower Galilee District Archaeologist of the IAA.

“This joint effort is also likely to lead to new discoveries soon,” Aviam added, noting that upon completion of their research with the Kinneret Academic College, the IAA will present the inscriptions to the general public.
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