|1||4th century||In phase 1, the building was a prayer hall (11 by 19m). The walls (0.8 m thick), were built of large field stones with a core of small stones. The building had four entrances: three in the northern wall and a side one in the eastern wall. The hall was divided by two rows of columns into a nave and two aisles. The square column bases were of basalt and stood on a foundation of field stones laid under the floor. The bases probably carried limestone columns with Corinthian capitals, fragments of which were found in secondary use in the building's later phases. A fragment of a limestone lintel, carved with a lion's protome within a medallion, was also found in secondary use. Parts of a decorated mosaic floor were preserved in the aisles. Judging from the architectural remains, coins, and pottery, this synagogue is to be ascribed to the fourth century. It was destroyed in a violent conflagration, as attested by the traces of fire on the mosaic floor and from chunks of charcoal found at the site.|
|2||end of the 5th century||Following the fire, the main part of the building was rebuilt. The walls of this second synagogue were built on the foundations of the earlier one. Two rows of rectangular basalt columns were erected. The new columns were placed directly on the floor, without a base or a stylobate. At the southern end of the nave, facing Jerusalem, a bema was flanked by steps leading up to it. The floor was finely paved with a mosaic decorated with geometric designs. The walls and columns were coated with white plaster, many fragments of which were collected from the debris, enabling a reconstruction of some of the painted decorations and inscriptions. The walls were decorated largely with geometric designs: red stripes, triangles, and stylized flowers. The columns bore large inscriptions in red paint, some of them in a tabula ansata and a wreath. The inscriptions, in Hebrew and in Aramaic, included a variety of texts: benedictions, dedications, a list of the priestly courses, and a copy of a letter dealing with the laws of tithes and the Sabbatical year (see below). Judging from the style of the mosaics and the date of the coins and the pottery, the second phase can be attributed to the end of the fifth century.|
|3||5th and 7th centuries|| The building underwent numerous changes between the fifth and
seventh centuries, before it was destroyed and abandoned. The modifications
were made to the existing structure in stages; they are all included here in the
The major innovation in phase 3 was the addition of the narthex on the northern side of the prayer hall. The narthex extended along the full width of the hall and 4 m beyond it on the east. Here a narrow corridor with a beaten earth floor was built along the length of the hall and up to its side entrance. The changes introduced in the prayer hall included the widening of the bema and the repositioning of the steps to lead up to it from the front. A low wall was built parallel to the bema, 0. 75 m in front of it. Between the wall and the bema another fragment of the chancel screen discovered before the excavations was found, suggesting that the low wall served as the foundation for the chancel screen. Low benches were built along the walls ofthe aisles. All these additions were constructed over the mosaic floor from the synagogue's second phase. The columns were covered with a new layer of plaster and new inscriptions were made in red and black paint. In this phase the synagogue was lit by candelabra, suspended from the ceiling; they consisted of bronze chains and glass cups, several of which were found on the floor of the prayer hall.
The mosaic floor of the phase 2 synagogue was repaired in phase 3. The artist attempted to copy the original design in some places, although with little success, while in others completely new decorations were introduced. Shortly before the destruction of the synagogue, work was apparently begun on replacing the mosaic pavement in the area of the nave. However, it appears that the artisans had completed only the foundation bed and had started to lay the southern border of the hall when the building was destroyed. Piles of tesserae arranged according to color were uncovered in the area of the nave together with the source material. This indicates that the tesserae were prepared by the artisans inside the building.
|Collapsed Walls||Synagogue ?
Plan of Synagogue in Phase 3
Fanny Vitto in Stern et. al. (1993 v. 4)
0. Yogev, 'Atiqot 17 (1985), 90-113.
D. Bahat, IEJ 23 (1973), 181-183
F. Vitto, Archeologia 110 (1977), 72; id., JEJ 30 (1980), 214-217; id., ASR, 90-94; id., Temples and High Places in Biblical Times, Jerusalem 1981, 164-167; id., RB 88 (1981), 584-586; id., BAlAS I (1982), 11-14; id., Jahrbuch der Osterreichischen Byzantinistik 32 (1982), 361-370
z. Safrai, lmmanue/8 (1978), 48-57
A. Demsky, IEJ29 (1979), 182-193
R. Frankel, ibid., 194-196
Y. Liebermann, Moria 8/8-9 (1979), 59-68
J. Sussman, ASR, 146-153
D. Chen, LA 36 (1986), 239-240
G. Foerster, Actes du Xle Congres International d'Archeologie Chrhienne (21-28 Sept. 1986), Rome 1989, 1809-1820.
S. Sznol, Erytheia 16 (1995), 39–61; A. Demsky, Sanctity of Time and Space in Tradition and Modernity
(Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series 1; eds. A. Houtman et al.), Leiden 1998, 285–296, 361–368
P. A. Kaswalder, Onomastica Biblica: fonti scritti e ricerca archeologica (SBF Collectio Minor 40), Jerusalem 2002, 298–299br>
Z. Weiss, What Athens Has to Do with Jerusalem, Leuven 2002, 211–233.