[To survey the archaeological history of the Galilee region, this entry is chronologically divided into two articles: Galilee in the Bronze and Iron Ages and Galilee in the Hellenistic through Byzantine Periods.]

Galilee in the Bronze and Iron Ages

The Galilee region in northern Israel consists of the Upper and Lower Galilee and the upper Jordan Valley, thus incorporating both the hill country and the surrounding plains. The diverse nature of the subregions is reflected in the number and scale of their tells and in their settlement history.

Only a few tells have been excavated in the Galilee, none of which are in the hill country. Most of our information about the region has been gained from the excavations carried out at Hazor and Dan and from the periodic surveys conducted in the twentieth century—from the early 1920s (by William Foxwell Albright, John Garstang, Appaly Saarisalo, and others) through the 1950s (Ruth Amiran, Yohanan Aharoni, and Nehemyah Zori). Since the 1970s, systematic surveys have been carried out on behalf of the Israel Archaeological Survey (Yaaqov Olami, Raphael Frankel, Avner Raban, Zvi Gal, and others).

In the Chalcolithic period (fourth millennium), a few sub-regional pastoral cultures dominated the Galilee. The first settlements in the area, small rural sites, appeared in the Early Bronze I period (3100–2800 BCE). These were replaced in the Early Bronze II–III period (2800–2200 BCE) by large, flourishing urban centers. A dense occupation is indicated by a network of large sites, all of which were fortified cities. Among the main sites are Tel ῾Alil, Tel Gat-Ḥepher, Tel Ḥannaton, Naḥaf, and Tel Rechesh in the Lower Galilee; Jish, Me῾ona, Tel Qedesh, and Tel Rosh in the Upper Galilee; and Dan, Hazor, and Tel Na῾amah in the upper Jordan Valley. The limited evidence gathered from the excavations at Hazor, Dan, Tel Na῾amah, Tel Qedesh, and Me῾ona focuses on the enormous scale of their fortifications. These sites represent the well-developed urban life that existed in the region throughout the Early Bronze II–III period. The enclosures at Ḥorvat Shahal and at Farod are unusual and are known mostly in the neighboring Golan; they apparently were fortified camps for large herds of cattle.

In the Intermediate Bronze Age (2200–2000 BCE), the Galilee's population was seminomadic, as is evident from the burial caves that comprise most of the archaeological data. On the basis of the pottery, it seems that the region was dominated by a single cultural group. Only a few settlement sits have been found, including that of Murhan on the southern margins of the eastern Lower Galilee, the dwelling caves at Tel Ḥarashim, and the cultic cave near Tel Qedesh.

An elaborate settlement hierarchy developed during the Middle Bronze II (2000–1550 BCE) that is characterized by major cities and many small rural sites. The main sites in the hill country include Tel Gat-Ḥepher, Tel Ḥannaton, Tel Qedesh, Tel Rechesh, and Tel Rosh. However, in the upper Jordan Valley, some of the finds from the large cities of Dan and Hazor, such as the former's mud-brick gate and the latter's liver model and cuneiform tablets, suggest that these cities were culturally associated with northern Syria, or even Mesopotamia. This view is also supported by a few of the Mari texts, which mention commercial and political connections between Mari and Hazor and Mari and Laish (Dan).

During the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 BCE), while the cities of the upper Jordan Valley (Hazor and Dan) flourished, the Galilean hill country was poorly settled. It is this period to which the Bible refers when it describes Hazor as “the head of all those kingdoms” (Jos. 11:10). The interpretation of the Egyptian texts, especially the list of Thutmose III (fifteenth century BCE), by some scholars as support for a major occupation of the hill country in this period is not borne out by field surveys, which postulate on the contrary, a distinctly sparse occupation. Only a few large sites were settled in the Lower Galilee, of which Tel Ḥannaton was the largest. The Upper Galilee was even more sparsely occupied, the main site being Tel Rosh (equated with biblical Beth-῾Anat). One of the el-Amarna texts confirms this situation: it describes the region between Hazor and Tyre as settled by the Apiru and under dispute between the two cities. The settlement process in the Iron Age I (1200–1000 BCE) should be understood in the light of this reality.

Toward the close of the thirteenth century BCE, the large Canaanite cities were destroyed, as is evident from the excavations at Hazor, Dan, and Tel Qarnei-Ḥittin. Either simultaneously, or just a short while later, a network of rural sites in the Galilee was settled, of which Tel Ḥarashim, Har-Adir, and Ḥorvat ῾Avot, as well as Hazor and Dan, have been excavated. The pottery found at these sites exhibits Phoenician as well as local characteristics, suggesting that they were occupied by both Israelites and Phoenicians. The Bible describes the battle at Merom (Jos. 11) as a major episode in this period; its location should be looked for at Tel Qarnei-Ḥittin. The finds at Dan may illustrate the migration of the Danites into the Galilee (Jgs. 18:28).

During the period of the United Kingdom (tenth century BCE), the Galilee reached its settlement peak. An elaborate settlement pattern consisting of fortified cities, villages, farms, and other small sites sprang up. The fortifications, fortress, storehouses, water system, and domestic structures at Hazor and the gate and the cultic bāmâ at Dan demonstrate that development.

Political, commercial, and cultural relations were established between Israel and other nations—with Phoenicia in particular. The result of King Solomon's exchange of the “Land of Cabul” (equated with parts of the Akko plain) for Phoenician supplies (1 Kgs. 9:10) is represented by the Phoenician fortress excavated at Ḥorvat Rosh Zayit, in western Galilee.

The ninth century BCE was marked by military clashes between Israel and the Aramaeans (1 Kgs. 20) and in the campaign of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III In 841 BCE. There is evidence of these events in the archaeological record at various sites such as Rosh Zayit. The campaign of Tiglath-Pileser III In 732 BCE brough: an end to Iron Age settlement in the Galilean hill country. This end is described both in the Bible (2 Kgs. 15) and in Assyrian sources and is evident at excavated sites such as Hazor, Dan, and Megiddo. The valley settlements survived, however, and became a part of the new Assyrian administrative system. According to the archaeological evidence, the Galilean hills were almost completely deserted for more than a century. They were reoccupied only in the late sixth century BCE, a harbinger of the Galilee's dense postbiblical settlement.

[See also Amarna Tablets; Dan; Fortifications, article on Fortifications of the Bronze and Iron Ages; Hazor; Jordan Valley; Mari Texts; and Settlement Patterns.]


  • Aharoni, Yohanan. The Settlement of the Israelite Tribes in the Upper Galilee (in Hebrew). Jerusalem, 1957. One of the first modern works conducted in the Galilee. Although some of its conclusions are no longer valid, its importance lies in a close acquaintance with the region and the use of new research methods. Find it in your Library
  • Aharoni, Yohanan. The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography. Rev. ed. Translated and edited by Anson F. Rainey. Philadelphia, 1979. Provides a summary outline of the history of the Galilee based on Aharoni's book above. Find it in your Library
  • Biran, Avraham. Dan: 25 shenot nafirot be-Tel Dan (Dan: 25 Years of Excavations at Tell Dan). Tel Aviv, 1992. The only comprehensive study of the history of this important site, based on the results of the excavations carried out there. Find it in your Library
  • Frankel, Rafael. “The Upper Galilee in the Transition from the Late Bronze to Iron Age.” In From Nomadism to Monarchy, edited by Israel Finkelstein and Na'aman Nadav. Jerusalem and Washington, D.C., 1994. Updated study of the Iron Age I in the hill-country, based on new evidence from field surveys. Find it in your Library
  • Gal, Zvi. Ramat Issachar: Ancient Settlement in a Peripheral Region (in Hebrew with English summary). Tel Aviv, 1980. Study of the settlement history of the eastern lower Galilee, from the Chalcolithic period to the Iron Age, based on field surveys. Find it in your Library
  • Gal, Zvi. Lower Galilee during the Iron Age. American Schools of Oriental Research, Dissertation Series, vol. 8. Winona Lake, Ind., 1992. The only comprehensive study of the historical geography of the lower Galilee, based on new evidence from field surveys and archaeological excavations. Find it in your Library
  • Gal, Zvi. “The Iron I in the Lower Galilee and the Margins of the Jezreel Valley.” In From Nomadism to Monarchy, edited by Israel Finkelstein and Na'aman Nadav. Jerusalem and Washington, D.C., 1994. Study of the Iron Age I, combining new evidence from both field surveys and excavations with the written sources. Find it in your Library
  • Yadin, Yigael. Hazor. London, 1972. Study of the results of the excavations at Hazor and its history, in relation to some major case studies on the MB II and IA I periods. Find it in your Library

The Galilee has been somewhat neglected in archaeological research, therefore published material is lacking, especially in English. The reader may consult the following:

Zvi Gal

Galilee in the Hellenistic through Byzantine Periods

There are hints in the literary sources of a greater Galilee than the territory entrusted to Josephus at the outbreak of the first revolt (cf. Antiquities 18.4; War 2.218, 3.35–39). Archaeological remains can confirm such a picture, since architectural forms, ceramic styles, and language patterns do not recognise the boundaries that political expediency imposes. Other factors such as climate, natural resources, and access in terms of travel also determine human habitation. In this regard it is worthwhile to recall the Mishnah's divisions of the region into Upper and Lower Galilee and the valley and Josephus's description of the fertility of the Plain of Gennesar (Mishnah, Shev. 9.2; War 3.516–521).

The results of the limited survey of some nineteen sites where synagogue remains existed convinced the members of the Meiron Excavation Project of a cultural continuum between Upper Galilee and western (Lower) Golan (Meyers, Strange, and Groh, 1978). [See Golan.] They based their conclusion on the obvious similarities in architectural styles for synagogues, including the absence of representational art; the predominance of Hebrew and Aramaic inscriptions, and the similar pottery types. The sites were technically villages rather than cities, and therefore, might be thought to have lacked a broader cultural horizon, especially because the area's mountainous terrain makes Upper Galilee relatively remote. Even in Late Roman times, Upper Galilee was known as Tetracomia (lit., “the four villages”), despite the fact that a policy of urbanization prevailed elsewhere in Palestine for administrative reasons, especially from the second century CE onward.

The distinctive profile this region presents on both sides of the Jordan River is not one of cultural isolation, however, but that of strong group identity in terms of adherence to the Jewish way of life despite participation in other aspects of the surrounding culture. Undoubtedly, the migration to the north that was the direct result of the Bar Kokhba revolt, meant an increase in Jewish presence. [See Bar Kokhba Revolt.] The archaeological data suggest that this area was chosen because of an earlier well-established Jewish presence there, at least in Upper Galilee (Aviam, 1993), and to a lesser extent in the Golan, which was sparsely populated until the Late Hellenistic/Early Roman period (i.e., second–first century BCE; Urman, 1985). A study of the pottery has established the presence of household ware originating in Galilee competing at various sites with local Golan ware from the early Roman period onward (Adan-Bayewitz, 1993). This would seem to suggest that from the very beginning of Jewish expansion in the north under the Hasmoneans the Upper Galilee/Lower Golan formed a continuous region as far as the population of the north was concerned.

On the basis of the Meiron Survey it was concluded that the cultural continuum between Upper Galilee and the Golan was not maintained in respect of Lower Galilee (Meyers, 1976 and 1985; Meyers, Strange, and Groh, 1978). There, different influences could be discerned that brought the area more into line with the cultural life of the Greek cities of the Decapolis and the coast. [See Decapolis.] The results of ongoing excavations at Sepphoris in Lower Galilee seem to support this view (Meyers, 1986 and 1992; Strange, 1992), provided the overall perspective is maintained that Jewish identity was well-established in both Upper and Lower Galilee, certainly from the early Roman period onward. Despite the emergence of Sepphoris and Tiberias as important administrative and market centers in Lower Galilee in the first century CE, introducing such trappings of Greco-Roman life as the theater, it is noteworthy that neither of these centers has so far yielded evidence of pagan worship such as statues, dedicatory inscriptions and temples that are found, for example, nearby Scythopolis/Beth-Shean or in the Phoenician coastal cities. [See Sepphoris; Tiberias.] Even when the material culture shows far greater signs of a non-Jewish presence at Sepphoris, as witnessed, for example, by the third-century CE Dionysiac mosaic and the Byzantine Nile mosaic, there was at the same time a thriving Jewish intellectual presence at these centers corresponding to that which has left its traces in the great synagogue remains of Upper Galilee and the Golan (Miller, 1984; Meyers, Meyers, and Netzer, 1992; Netzer and Weiss, 1994). Synagogue remains in Lower Galilee, such as Hammath Tiberias, Ḥorvat ha-῾Amudim, and Sepphoris with mosaic floors do appear to adopt a different attitude to the question of representational art (Levine, 1981 and 1987) to those in Upper Galilee, except for the Ark of Nabratein with the two lions and the decorated mosaic floor that has been overlain on the original stone one in the fifth-century CE Meroth synagogue (Meyers, 1993; Ilan, 1993). When all differences are allowed for, including climatic and geophysical realities, the material remains do not support a completely different profile for Upper and Lower Galilee in terms of lifestyle, openness to wider cultural influences, and opportunities (Edwards, 1988 and 1992; Overman, 1988 and 1993).


Some of the most pressing problems in regard to Galilean history are those concerned with the issues of demography and ethnography. Archaeology contributes greatly to clarifying the changes from one period to another, and surveys have not only produced relative figures for settlement densities, but in some instances have identified their ethnic affiliations from the material remains. Pottery analysis, utilizing the most up-to-date methods—neutron activation analysis, binocular microscopy, xeroradiography, and thin-section analysis—has made it possible to draw much more precise conclusions about the provenience, manufacture, and distribution of those goods (Adan-Bayewitz and Wieder, 1992).

The findings of Zvi Gal's survey of Iron Age III sites (i.e., seventh–sixth centuries BCE) challenge Albrecht Alt's contention, argued from the literary sources for the most part, that the Israelite population in the Galilee was relatively undisturbed throughout centuries, thus providing the framework for the incorporation of the region into the ethnos ton Ioudaion by the Hasmoneans in the second century BCE (Gal, 1992; Alt, 1953). Alt believed that Galilee had fared better in the first Assyrian onslaught In 732 BCE than Samaria did In 721, when the native population was replaced by people of non-Israelite stock (2 Kgs. 15:29; 17:6, 24). The absence from eighty-three surveyed sites in lower Galilee of four different pottery types, dated to that particular period on the basis of stratified digs at Hazor and Samaria, has convinced Gal that there was a major depopulation of the area in the century after the fall of Samaria. Only additional stratified digs will decide whether this population gap was the result of the Assyrian aggression or was due to the migration of the country people to larger settlements.

It was only in the Persian and Early Hellenistic periods that signs of new settlements began to appear in this area once more. Preliminary results from the Archaeological Survey of Israel for Upper Galilee show an upward curve from 93 sites in the Hellenistic period to 138 for the Roman and 162 for the Byzantine periods, respectively (Aviam, 1993). This trend corresponds to the results of Dan Urman's survey of the Golan carried out for the Association for the Archaeological Survey of Israel and the Israel Antiquities Authority (Urman, 1985). It is best explained in terms of the incorporation of the whole Galilee/Golan region into the Jewish state and the need for new settlements and military outposts on both sides of the Jordan. The further increase of settlements in the Roman and Byzantine periods is directly attributable to internal Jewish migration for the most part, both in the wake of the second revolt and as a result of the increased Christian presence in the south from the fourth century CE onward.

These suggestions raise more acutely the issue of the ethnic mix of Galilee. Josephus reports (Antiq. 13.318ff.) on the enforced judaization by Judah Aristobulus I (In 105 BCE) of the Itureans, a semi-nomadic Arab people who became sedentarized in the Hellenistic period and who are associated with the Hermon region (Dar, 1988). The claim is that with the breakup of the Seleucid empire during the second century BCE, the Itureans infiltrated Upper Galilee—according to some (Schürer, rev. ed., 1973–1987, vol. 2, pp. 7–10, e.g.), almost all of Galilee—which was hitherto sparsely populated. Archaeological considerations give rise to a number of difficulties with this scenario, however. First, Upper Galilee was not as sparsely populated in the early Hellenistic period as the results of the Archaeological Survey already alluded to make clear (Aviam, 1993). Nor is the character of the settlements similar to those confidently identified as Iturean in the Golan (e.g., Khirbet Zemel), since the Upper Galilean settlements reflect an agricultural rather than a pastoral milieu, so obvious in the Golan remains (Hartel, 1987). According to Mordechai Aviam (1993) many of these settlements were abandoned in the Hellenistic period, only to have been replaced by others (regarded as Jewish from the period of the expansion in the second century BCE, based on the preponderance of Hasmonean coins). To complicate the matter further, sherds which, in terms of clay composition (pinkish brown with coarse grits) and style (from large storage jars, poorly finished) are not dissimilar to so-called Iturean ware from Hermon/Golan (Epstein and Gutman, 1972; Urman, 1985, pp. 162–164; Hartel, 1989, pp. 124–126), have also been found in Upper Galilee. The current political situation has prevented surveying the western Hermon region, which might reveal a greater Iturean presence that can be postulated at present. In any event the notion that most of the Galileans who appear in the first-century CE literary sources were forcibly converted Itureans receives no support from the archaeological data. The evidence indicates rather that if there were Itureans in Upper Galilee in the Early Hellenistic period, they left with the advance of the Hasmonean armies of conquest, an option which they were given according to Josephus (Antiq. 13.318ff.).

As already indicated, the marked upsurge in settlements from the Hellenistic to the Byzantine period is understandable in light of Jewish history. In some instances the synagogue remains alone, with their distinctively Jewish iconography, inscriptions, and liturgical architecture leave no doubt about the strength of the Jewish presence, especially in Upper Galilee/Golan from the Middle Roman to the Early Arab period at least. Architectural remains of synagogues from Lower Galilee are less well preserved, with a few notable exceptions (Chorazin, Capernaum, Hammath Tiberias), nonetheless a recent survey of some seventy sites shows almost as many remains for Lower as for Upper Galilee (Ilan et al., 1986–1987). [See Chorazin; Capernaum.] Based on stratigraphic evidence and literary sources, it can confidently be asserted that several of these later sites in both Galilees were Jewish settlements beginning in at least the Late Hellenistic period. It is surprising, therefore, that with the exception of Gamla and possibly Magdala, no remains of pre-70 CE synagogues have been identified [See Gamla; Magdala.] This may merely mean that in some instances at least they were insignificant edifices, and possibly smaller settlements had no communal building before the destruction of the Temple (Ma῾oz, 1992). On the other hand the presence of miqva'ot (ritual baths) at such sites as Sepphoris, Jotapata, Gamla, and Khirbet Shema῾ from the Middle Roman period are clear indications that a sizable number of the population of such places were concerned with issues to do with ritual purity and its attendant way of life. [See Jotapata; Shema῾, Khirbet; Ritual Baths.] Presumably, the pattern did not differ greatly in the many other Jewish or predominantly Jewish settlements in the Galilee in the same period. The absence of any human or animal representations on the coins of Herod Antipas, the first to be struck in Galilee itself, would appear to support strongly such a conclusion.

The map of known Jewish settlements, especially where synagogue remains have been claimed, shows a concentration of sites in certain areas of both Galilees. In those districts there are few or no remains of a non-Jewish presence, whereas outside those subregions the evidence is unmistakable. The situation is most obvious in Upper Galilee where a Roman temple from the second century CE at Qedesh points to a thriving pagan culture (Aviam, 1985; Fischer et al., 1984). Farther north the bilingual inscription from Dan (“To the God who is in Dan”), as well as the grotto of Pan at Banias from Seleucid times at least, show that the region south of Hermon was thoroughly hellenized from an early period (Biran, 1981; Tzaferis, 1992b). [See Dan; Banias.] Herod the Great dedicated a temple to Augustus at Caesarea Phillipi (War 1.404–406; Antiq. 15.360). No material remains of Jewish presence have been found above a line that runs just north of Sasa, Bar῾am, and Qazyon, all of which show unmistakable signs of having been Jewish communities. [See Bar῾am.] To the west-southwest no synagogal remains have been found west of the line from Peqi'in to Rama in Upper Galilee, and a similar situation obtains in Lower Galilee west of the line running from Rama through I'billin to Tiv῾on (Ilan et al., 1986–1987; Aviam, 1993). In the south no clear evidence of Jewish communities have been found south of the Nazareth ridge. Outside these lines one is moving in the orbit of the Greek cities, especially Beth-Shean/Scythopolis and Akko/Ptolemais, while to the north Tyre was the dominant urban influence, even on Jewish Galilee. [See Akko; Beth-Shean; Tyre].

It is noteworthy that as well as the absence of synagogues, dedicatory inscriptions to pagan gods have so far been found only on the fringes of Galilee, such as the third-century CE inscription addressed in Greek to the Syrian gods Hadad and Atargatis from the region of Akko/Ptolemais, or the one addressed to the Heliopolitan Zeus on Mt. Carmel (Avi-Yonah, 1951 and 1959). On the other hand, the only remains of pagan worship from Jewish Galilee (apart from some personal votive objects from Sepphoris) is the Syro-Egyptian shrine at Har Miṣpe Yamim in the Hermon massif, a site which was abandoned already in the second century BCE (Frankel, 1992). The Jewish and non-Jewish areas were not hermetically sealed from one another, however. The evidence points only to the predominant ethnic identities being localized. The literary evidence that there were Jews living in the city territories of Palestine and that some non-Jews were also to be found in Jewish areas, is not negated. In both instances they would have constituted minorities that were more or less influential on their immediate environment at different periods.

This distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish elements in Galilee is strikingly confirmed by Christian remains. Early archaeological work concentrated on the important Christian sites associated with the life of Jesus, such as Nazareth, Mt. Tabor, Capernaum, and Tabgha. [See Nazareth; Tabgha; Tabor, Mount.] In these areas it would seem that Jews and Christians lived side by side from the Middle Roman period (i.e., second century CE onward) until the Persian conquest In 614 CE (Bagatti, 1971). In western Galilee Aviam (1993) has found many Christian settlements, identified by the number of crosses as well as dedicatory inscriptions on remains of tombs and churches, however. Some of the inscriptions are in Syriac and others are in Greek, suggesting that some of the local Semitic, non-Jewish population may have converted to Christianity. This concentration of a Christian presence in western Galilee seems to corroborate the fact that in that area at least, bordering on the territories of the Phoenician cities, the non-Jewish element continued to predominate from pre-Christian to Christian times.

Trade and Commerce.

The literary sources presuppose a rural Galilee thickly populated with towns and villages, and well endowed with natural resources, not least the lake of Gennesar, with its thriving fish industry (Freyne, 1988, 1995a). This has been dramatically corroborated, not just by the discovery of the Galilean boat, but also by the survey of the many anchorages, breakwaters, harbors, and fish pools, often Roman in date, discovered around the lake when the water levels were very low In 1985 and 1986. (Nun, 1988; Wachsmann, 1990). [See Galilee Boat.] The names of two settlements on or near the lake, Tarichaea (Gk., “salted fish”)/Magdala and Bethsaida, are directly associated with the fishing industry, the former in particular alluding to the practice of salting fish for export, introduced in Hellenistic times. [See Bethsaida.] The boat's discovery and the analysis of its construction underline the ancillary industry of boatbuilding which must have been considerable, especially if Josephus's figures are anything to go by (War 3. 522–531).

In light of recent analysis of the pottery (see above), it seems that the interior of Galilee also could boast of a thriving industry from the Early Roman to the Byzantine periods. Three important centers of pottery manufacture, both known in Talmudic sources for their wares, have been identified: Kefar Ḥananyah, on the borders of Upper Galilee overlooking the Beth-ha-Kerem valley (where a large, fourth-century CE kiln has been excavated; see Adan-Bay-ewitz, 1986 and 1989); Shikhin, tentatively identified with a site close to Sepphoris (Strange et al., 1994), and Nahf in western Galilee where two kilns have been uncovered (Vitto, 1983–1984). [See Kefar Ḥananyah.] Adan-Bayewitz's (1993) study of the pottery of Galilee not only distinguishes typologies as in previous studies (Díez Fernández, 1983), but also traces provenience and distribution patterns in order to determine local (intra- and interregional) trade. Pottery sherds from seventeen excavated and one surveyed site in Galilee and the Golan were subjected to a chemical analysis of the clay, enabling three separate provenience groups to be determined: Kefar Ḥananyah, Shikhin, and Golan wares. It was concluded that the two Galilean centers provided the majority of the household wares for all of Galilee in addition to a sizable minority of the Golan wares over a considerable period of time. The wares from Kefar Hananyah and Shikhin are distinguishable from each other by both form and clay components. Thus, two local manufacturing centers emerge in what would technically be described as Galilean villages (and no doubt there were others like Nahf), each with its own specialization and use of local resources. This points to a rapidly developing market economy, that is interested in supplying surplus goods within a regional trading network of some significance for Galilee as a whole (Adan-Bayewitz and Perlman, 1990).

Kefar Ḥananyah provided 10–20 percent of household wares in the Golan from the Early to Late Roman periods, but no Golan ware has so far been found in Galilee, according to David Adan-Bayewitz's (1993) findings. The fact that the Galilean wares are found not just at Jewish Golan sites such as ῾Ein-Nashut and Dabiye but also at Tel Anafa and Hippos/Susita, both Hellenistic foundations, shows that the trade was not just interregional but also interethnic, something that is confirmed by the presence of the Kefar Ḥananyah ware at Akko/Ptolemais also. [See Anafa, Tel.] The fact that no Galilean ware was found among the pottery remains of sites south of the Nazareth ridge, such as Samaria and Beth-Shean/Scythopolis, as well as at the more southerly sites in Transjordan, is surely significant in terms of the extent of the trade. This may be due to several factors: transportation difficulties, ritual concerns to do with vessels, interregional—or, in the case of Samaria, interethnic and religious—rivalries, or competing local ware (as in the case of the Golan, where a local pottery trade could be identified, but which clearly was not sufficient to meet all the local needs).

The pattern of local trade emerging from this study of the pottery is also substantiated by a consideration of the coins to be found at Galilean sites. Money played an important role in the development of more sophisticated modes of exchange in ancient economies (Freyne, 1995b). Galilee had its own coinage, albeit of modest proportions, under Herod Antipas, for whom three strikings of bronze coins have so far been identified. In addition, the cities of Sepphoris/Diocaesarea (from 67 CE) and Tiberias (from 100 CE) struck coins, but the scale appears to be limited by contrast with such important trading centers as Tyre (Meshorer, 1985). The coinage of Tyre (both autonomous city coins and Roman imperial ones struck there) predominates at both Upper and Lower Galilean sites, as well as in the various hoards of coins that have been unearthed. No coins from Lower Galilee occur at any of the Upper Galilean sites, however (Ben-David, 1969; Barag, 1982–1983; Hanson, 1980; Raynor and Meshorer, 1988). Thus a pattern emerges in which Tyre continued to be the predominant outlet for Galilean produce, as suggested by the prophet Ezekiel (chap. 27) already in the sixth century BCE (Diakonoff, 1992). In turn, it depended on the hinterland for its own needs, grain and oil in particular, as well as benefiting from the export trade. The identification of olive and wine presses from western Galilee in particular conforming to a typology found in the Syro-Phoenician region generally, confirms this network of everyday influences that transcends ethnic and cultural affiliations (Frankel, 1992). It is probable that there were regional exchange centers within Galilee also, such as the sites excavated by the Meiron Expedition (Khirbet Shema῾, Meiron, Gush Ḥalav) and equally Sepphoris for Lower Galilee, where storage cisterns as well as a weight inscribed with the word agoranomos (a Greek magistrate who oversaw transactions in the marketplace) has been discovered (Meyers et al., 1986).

Of the excavated Galilean sites in Upper Galilee, only Nabratein does not seem to conform fully to this pattern. The coin profile there is quite different from the other sites excavated by the Meiron Expedition, with Tyrian coins poorly represented. At the same time the evidence from many plastered storage pits is that it, too, served as a collection center for local produce, wine, and oil. This suggests that its location pointed Nabratein in a more easterly orientation, toward the Hulah valley and beyond for its trading contacts. This conclusion underlines the adaptability of the Jewish population to its larger environment, and in the case of Nabratein, animal representation in the synagogue shows how this diversification is echoed in religious expressions also, but within a thoroughly Jewish framework. Even at the other Upper Galilean sites that might be labeled conservative in terms of their religious observance, the detailed excavation reports of the Meiron team note the presence of imported fine ware from Cyprus, North Africa, and the East in the late Roman period. This shows that these places were thriving economically, and suggests that their religious views did not isolate them from the trappings of affluence, as expressed in luxury household wares in the region generally (Meyers, Strange, and Groh, 1978).

Charting of the road systems contributes greatly to an understanding of Galilean trading patterns, even when developments in this regard for the Roman period are associated with the greater military presence in Palestine rather than with trading, after the two revolts, especially that under Hadrian (132–135 CE). The presence of milestones and paving, often on top of older tracks from the Hellenistic period, can help in the dating of this process (Roll, 1983 and 1994; Strange, 1994). Earlier discussions of the road systems tended to concentrate on the through roads, particularly the Via Maris, which was believed to bifurcate on crossing the Jordan below the Sea of Galilee, one branch traveling south via Beth-Shean/Scythopolis to Jerusalem and the other heading for the coast through the Great Plain. In addition a road linking Tyre with Damascus through Banias is also suggested (Avi-Yonah, 1966). The more recent archaeological evidence fills out this picture considerably for Lower Galilee through the discovery of milestones: a road from Akko/Ptolemais to Sepphoris and on to Tiberias (nine mile-stones, seven before and two after Sepphoris, going west); a road from Tiberias, south to Beth-Shean/Scythopolis (nine milestones); a second-century road from Beth-Shean/Scythopolis to Legio in the Jezreel Plain (fifteen milestones); another second-century road from Legio to Akko/Ptolemais (five milestones); a road from Legio to Sepphoris (thirteen milestones), and a road from Bethsaida-Julias northwest past Chorazin, possibly linking to Akko/Ptolemais (Roll, 1983 and 1994). Further exploration will undoubtedly uncover a much more complex network of local roads than is possible to document at present, especially around the larger settlements, such as those reported for the Sepphoris region by Strange (1994).


Language is a general indicator of a wider pattern of cultural affiliation. Inscriptions alone, therefore, are of only limited value in determining everyday language patterns. They may be stylized and atypical, depending on the circumstances in which they occur, as well as on other, more far-reaching factors to do with language, such as its use for administrative or commercial purposes and the possibility of bi- or trilingualism in mixed ethnic contexts. In the Galilee setting the foremost archaeological data for language patterns are the many inscriptions from the necropolis of Beth-She῾arim in western Lower Galilee. These are normally dated from the period of Rabbi Judah the Prince (c. 200 CE). [See Beth-She῾arim]. The site continued as a necropolis until after the Gallus Revolt in the mid-fourth century CE. Some have suggested that chambers 6 and 11 where only Greek is found should be dated to the first century CE (Lifshitz, 1965). Even then, however, the question is raised about how representative this evidence is of the linguistic habits of Galileans. The Greek is, in many cases, “vulgar” rather than cultured in style, which may point to its being rooted in the region's colloquial practices. The location of Beth-She῾arim, however, on the borders of the district of Akko/Ptolemais might be seen as making it unrepresentative, even for Lower Galilee. The practice of secondary burials from the Diaspora also needs to be borne in mind in evaluating the significance of the language of burial inscriptions.

In Upper Galilee, where it might be expected that Greek would be well represented at sites as a result of trade links, Hebrew and Aramaic were found to dominate. A few scattered examples of Greek have emerged—an ostracon and ring from Gush Ḥalav, an inscribed storage jar from Meiron, and a bilingual inscription from Firim (modern Rosh Pinah), and the well-known inscription from Qatsyon (possibly from a Jewish site) honoring Emperor Septimius Severus (Meyers and Strange, 1981; Meyers, 1985, p. 120). [See Gush Ḥalav.] This is in sharp contrast to the linguistic picture emerging further north in the non-Jewish areas from sites such as Qedesh, Banias, and the Hermon region generally (Fischer et al., 1986; Tzaferis, 1992; Dar, 1992). It seems that in Upper Galilee, a conservative linguistic pattern corresponded to an equally conservative attitude toward religious art, despite the readiness of the Jewish inhabitants to trade with the most influential commercial center in the area, Tyre, with its pagan associations.

In Lower Galilee the regional differences in terms of ethnic mix and openness to the surrounding culture (see above) come into play. In addition to the possibly exceptional site of Beth-She῾arim, Greek appears at sites along the western shores of the lake and in the lower part of central Lower Galilee, the very areas where, on the basis of both the literary and architectural remains, the Jewish population was located. Yet those Hebrew and Aramaic inscriptions that are found in lower Galilee also occur in these regions. This suggests a pattern of bi- or even trilingualism for Jews in Lower Galilee (Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew), as distinct from Upper Galilee, where the pattern is Aramaic/Hebrew. However, several factors urge caution: the majority of Greek inscriptions are at Christian sites and date from the Byzantine period; there is a relative paucity of Hebrew/Aramaic inscriptions, which may not reflect the actual picture, but may simply be the result of the poorly preserved state of synagogue remains in Lower Galilee; and the rabbinic sources, though written in Aramaic and Hebrew, show a high incidence of Greek loan words, pointing to a situation in which Aramaic was the lingua franca, but with a gradual infiltration of Greek.

The attempt to produce a comprehensive picture of Galilean society on the basis of the archaeological evidence alone, highlighted by this discussion of the epigraphic evidence for linguistic practices, inevitably must be tentative and open to constant revision. New discoveries are made yearly and more and more sophisticated methods are applied to examine the data from the region from which two world religions have emerged. Archaeological evidence and literary descriptions must be critically correlated, a task that calls for considerable methodological sophistication in several disciplines. Literary theorists have made us aware that all texts are tellings rather than showings; archaeology provides a showing in need of a critical telling.


  • Adan-Bayewitz, David. “Kefar Hananya.” Israel Exploration Journal 37 (1986): 178ff.; 39 (1989): 87ff. Find it in your Library
  • Adan-Bayewitz, David, and Isadore Perlman. “The Local Trade of Sepphoris in the Roman Period.” Israel Exploration Journal 19 (1990): 153–172. Find it in your Library
  • Adan-Bayewitz, David, and Moshe Wieder. “Ceramics from Galilee: A Comparison of Several Techniques for Fabric Characterization.” Journal of Field Archaeology 19 (1992): 189–205. Find it in your Library
  • Adan-Bayewitz, David. Common Pottery in Roman Galilee: A Study of Local Trade. Ramat Gan, 1993. Find it in your Library
  • Alt, Albrecht. “Galilaische Problemen.” In Alt's Kleine Schriften zur Geschichte des Volkes Israel, vol. 2, pp. 363–435. Munich, 1953. Find it in your Library
  • Aviam, Mordechai. “The Roman Temple in Kedesh in the Light of Certain Northern Syrian City Coins.” Tel Aviv 12 (1985): 212–214. Find it in your Library
  • Aviam, Mordechai. “Galilee: The Hellenistic to Byzantine Periods.” In The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, pp. 452–458. Jerusalem and New York, 1993. Find it in your Library
  • Avi-Yonah, Michael. “Mount Carmel and the God of Baalbeck.” Israel Exploration Journal 2 (1951): 118–124. Find it in your Library
  • Avi-Yonah, Michael. “Syrian Gods at Ptolemais-Acho.” Israel Exploration Journal 9 (1959): 1–12. Find it in your Library
  • Avi-Yonah, Michael. The Holy Land from the Persian to the Arab Conquests, 536 B.C.–A.D. 640: A Historical Geography. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1966. Find it in your Library
  • Biran, Avraham. “To the God Who Is in Dan.” In Temples and High Places in Biblical Times, edited by Avraham Biran, pp. 142–151. Jerusalem, 1981. Find it in your Library
  • Bagatti, Bellarmino. Antichi villaggi cristiani di Galilea. Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Collectio Minor, no. 13. Jerusalem, 1971. Find it in your Library
  • Barag, Dan. “Tyrian Currency in Galilee.” Israel Numismatic Journal 6–7 (1982–1983): 7–13. Find it in your Library
  • Ben-David, Arye. Jerusalem und Tyros: Ein Beitrag zur Palästinenischen Münz- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte. Basel, 1969. Find it in your Library
  • Dar, Shim῾on. “The History of the Hermon Settlements.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 120 (1988): 26–44. Find it in your Library
  • Dar, Shim῾on. “The Greek Inscriptions from Senaim on Mount Hermon.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 124 (1992): 9–25. Find it in your Library
  • Diakonoff, Igor M. “The Naval Power and Trade of Tyre.” Israel Exploration Journal 42 (1992): 168–193. Find it in your Library
  • Díez Fernández, Florentino. Cerámica común romana de la Galilea: Approximaciones y diferencias con la cerámica del resto de Palestina y regiones circundantes. Jerusalem and Madrid, 1983. Find it in your Library
  • Edwards, Douglas “First-Century Rural/Urban Relations in Lower Galilee: Exploring the Archaeological Evidence.” In Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers, edited by David J. Lull, pp. 169–182. Atlanta, 1988. Find it in your Library
  • Edwards, Douglas. “The Socio-Economic and Cultural Ethos of the Lower Galilee in the First Century: Implications for the Nascent Jesus Movement.” In The Galilee in Late Antiquity, edited by Lee I. Levine, pp. 53–73. New York, 1992. Find it in your Library
  • Epstein, Claire, and Shmaryahu Gutman. “The Golan” (in Hebrew). In Judea, Samaria, and the Golan: Archaeological Survey, 1967–1968, edited by Moshe Kochavi, pp. 243–298. Jerusalem, 1972. Find it in your Library
  • Fischer, Moshe, et al. “The Roman Temple at Kedesh, Upper Galilee: A Preliminary Study.” Tel Aviv 11 (1984): 147–172. Find it in your Library
  • Fischer, Moshe, et al. “The Epigraphic Finds from the Roman Temple at Kedesh in the Upper Galilee.” Tel Aviv 13 (1986): 60–66. Find it in your Library
  • Frankel, Rafael. “Har Mizpe Yamim, 1988/89.” Excavations and Surveys in Israel 9 (1989–1990): 100–102. Find it in your Library
  • Frankel, Rafael, “Some Oil-Presses from Western Galilee.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 286 (1992): 39–71. Find it in your Library
  • Freyne, Sean. Galilee from Alexander the Great to Hadrian, 323 B.C.E. to 135 C.E.: A Study of Second Temple Judaism. Wilmington, Dela., and Notre Dame, 1980. Find it in your Library
  • Freyne, Sean. Galilee, Jesus, and the Gospels: Literary Approaches and Historical Investigations. Dublin and Minneapolis, 1988. Find it in your Library
  • Freyne, Sean. “Jesus and the Urban Culture of Galilee.” In Texts and Contexts: Texts in Their Textual and Situational Contexts; Essays in Honor of Lars Hartman, edited by Tord Fornberg and David Hell-holm, pp. 597–622. Oslo, 1995a. Find it in your Library
  • Freyne, Sean. “Herodian Economics in Galilee: Searching for a Suitable Model.” In Modelling Early Christianity: Social-Scientific Studies of the New Testament in Its Context, edited by Philip F. Esler, pp. 23–46. London, 1995b. Find it in your Library
  • Gal, Zvi. Lower Galilee during the Iron Age. American Schools of Oriental Research, Dissertation Series, no. 8. Winona Lake, Ind., 1992. Find it in your Library
  • Goodman, Martin D. State and Society in Roman Galilee, A.D. 132–212. Totowa, N.J., 1982. Find it in your Library
  • Hanson, Richard S. Tyrian Influence in the Upper Galilee. Cambridge, Mass., 1980. Find it in your Library
  • Hartal, Mosheh. “Khirbet Zemel, 1985/86.” Israel Exploration Journal 37 (1987): 270–272. Find it in your Library
  • Hartal, Mosheh. Northern Golan Heights: The Archaeological Survey as a Source of Local History (in Hebrew). Qaṣrin, Israel, 1989. Find it in your Library
  • Ilan, Zvi, et al. “Galilee: Survey of Synagogues.” Excavations and Surveys in Israel 5 (1986–1987): 35–37. Find it in your Library
  • Ilan, Zvi. “Meroth.” In The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 3, pp. 1028–1031. Jerusalem and New York, 1993. Find it in your Library
  • Levine, Lee I., ed. Ancient Synagogues Revealed. Jerusalem, 1981. Find it in your Library
  • Levine, Lee I., ed. The Synagogue in Late Antiquity. Philadelphia, 1987. Find it in your Library
  • Levine, Lee I., ed. The Galilee in Late Antiquity. New York, 1992. Find it in your Library
  • Lifshitz, Baruch. “L'hellénisation des juifs de Palestine à propos des inscriptions de Beshara (Beth She῾arim).” Revue Biblique 72 (1965): 520–538. Find it in your Library
  • Ma῾oz, Zvi. “The Synagogue in the Second Temple Period: Architectural and Social Interpretation.” Eretz-Israel 22 (1992): 331–344.. Find it in your Library
  • Meshorer, Ya῾acov. City-Coins of Eretz-Israel and the Decapolis in the Roman Period. Jerusalem, 1985. Find it in your Library
  • Meyers, Eric M., “Galilean Regionalism as a Factor in Historical Reconstruction.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 221 (1976): 93–101. Find it in your Library
  • Meyers, Eric M., James F. Strange, and Dennis E. Groh. “The Meiron Excavation Project: Archaeological Survey in Galilee and Golan, 1976.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 230 (1978): 1–24. Find it in your Library
  • Meyers, Eric M., and James F. Strange. Archaeology, the Rabbis, and Early Christianity. Nashville and London, 1981. Find it in your Library
  • Meyers, Eric M. “Galilean Regionalism: A Reappraisal.” In Approaches to Ancient Judaism, vol. 5, Studies in Judaism and Its Greco-Roman Context, edited by William Scott Green, pp. 115–131. Atlanta, 1985. Find it in your Library
  • Meyers, Eric M., et al. “Sepphoris, ‘Ornament of All Galilee.’” Biblical Archaeologist 49 (1986): 4–19. Find it in your Library
  • Meyers, Eric M. “Roman Sepphoris in Light of New Archaeological Evidence and Recent Research.” In The Galilee in Late Antiquity, edited by Lee I. Levine, pp. 321–338. New York, 1992. Find it in your Library
  • Meyers, Eric M., Carol L. Meyers, and Ehud Netzer. Sepphoris. Winona Lake, Ind., 1992. Find it in your Library
  • Meyers, Eric M. “Nabratein.” In The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 3, pp. 1077–1079. Jerusalem and New York, 1993. Find it in your Library
  • Miller, Stuart S. Studies in the History and Traditions of Sepphoris. Studies in Judaism and Late Antiquity, vol. 37. Leiden, 1984. Find it in your Library
  • Netzer, Ehud, and Zeev Weiss. Zippori. Jerusalem, 1994. Find it in your Library
  • Nun, Mendel. Ancient Anchorages and Harbours around the Sea of Galilee. Ein Gev, 1988. Find it in your Library
  • Overman, J. Andrew. “Who Were the First Urban Christians?” In Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers, edited by David J. Lull, pp. 160–168. Atlanta, 1988. Find it in your Library
  • Overman, J. Andrew. “Recent Advances in the Archaeology of the Galilee in the Roman Period.” In Current Research in Biblical Studies, edited by Alan J. Hauser and Philip H. Sellew, pp. 35–58. Sheffield, 1993. Find it in your Library
  • Raynor, Joyce, and Ya῾acov Meshorer. The Coins of Ancient Meiron. Winona Lake, Ind., 1988. Find it in your Library
  • Roll, Israel. “The Roman Road System in Judea.” Jerusalem Cathedra 3 (1983): 136–181. Find it in your Library
  • Roll, Israel. “Roman Roads.” In Tabula imperii romani: Iudaea-Palaestina, edited by Yoram Tsafrir et al., pp. 21–22. Jerusalem, 1994. Includes a detailed map. Find it in your Library
  • Schürer, Emil. The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, 175 B.C.–A.D. 135. 4 vols. Revised and edited by Géza Vermès et al. Edinburgh, 1973–1987. Find it in your Library
  • Strange, James F. “Six Campaigns at Sepphoris: The University of South Florida Excavations, 1983–1989.” In The Galilee in Late Antiquity, edited by Lee I. Levine, pp. 339–356. New York, 1992. Find it in your Library
  • Strange, James F., et al. “Excavations at Sepphoris: The Location and Identification of Shikhin, Part I.” Israel Exploration Journal 44 (1994): 216–227. Find it in your Library
  • Strange, James F. “First-Century Galilee from Archaeology and from Texts.” In Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers, edited by David J. Lull, pp. 81–90. Atlanta, 1994. Find it in your Library
  • Tzaferis, Vassilios. “Cults and Deities Worshipped at Caesarea Philippi–Banias.” In Priests, Prophets, and Scribes: Essays in Second Temple Judaism in Honour of Joseph Blenkinsopp, edited by Eugene Ulrich, pp. 190–203. Sheffield, 1992a. Find it in your Library
  • Tzaferis, Vassilios. “The ‘God Who Is in Dan’ and the Cult of Pan at Banias in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods.” Eretz-Israel 23 (1992b): 128–135. Find it in your Library
  • Urman, Dan. The Golan: A Profile of a Region during the Roman and Byzantine Periods. British Archaeological Reports, International Series, no. 269. Oxford, 1985. Find it in your Library
  • Vitto, Fanny. “A Look into the Workshop of a Late Roman Galilean Potter.” Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society (1983–1984): 19–22. Find it in your Library
  • Wachsmann, Shelley. The Excavations of an Ancient Boat in the Sea of Galilee. ῾Atiqot, vol. 19. Jerusalem, 1990. Find it in your Library

Seán Freyne