by Yael Adar
Dr. James F. Strange, Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Southern Florida, leads one of three teams excavating at Zippori. He noted that Zippori is considered a major archaeological site (compared to others in Israel) and explained some of the reasons for its importance.
This was a major Jewish economic, political, and intellectual center from the 2nd century BCE to the 7th century CE. It was the seat of Herod the Great and his son Herod Antipas. Zippori minted its own coins from 66-218 CE, and participated in a trade network that extended to Italy.
And here, at the beginning of the 3rd century CE, Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi (Judah the Prince) edited the Mishnah (Jewish religious law that was passed down before 200 CE). The Jewish population thrived through the 6th century CE and Zippori declined in importance after the Arab invasion of the 7th century CE.
In the coming season of excavations roughly 70 people, under Dr. Strange's direction, will continue working in the civil basilica. This basilica housed offices in the upstairs portion while the downstairs had rooms that were used for functions. Here, a 3rd century mosaic that depicts 60 images of birds, fish and other local species was found (see photo).
Dr. Strange explained how this mosaic differs from others found at Zippori, "It is a series of circular, demicircular, or quarticircular panels within braids. The panels were made in a workshop and then transported to the site and inserted into the floor." This particular mosaic is not currently open, for public viewing.