Kursi Beach ExcavationKursi Beach Excavation

Archaeology in Israel

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A tiny fish symbol found in the ancient Synagogue

This minute fish on a piece of pottery was found by a volunteer, in amongst the roof tiles, marble and pottery finds. Here on the shore of The Sea fo Galilee, that may not seem strange or remarkable, considering that many people have made their living from fishing over the centuries since the synagogue was abandoned. However, a fish symbol in an area known to have been occupied by early Christians is very significant indeed.

The Greek word for fish is “ichthys.” As early as the first century, Christians made an acrostic from this word: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, i.e. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. The fish has plenty of other theological overtones as well: Jesus fed the 5,000 with 2 fishes and 5 loaves and called his disciples, “fishers of men.”

 

 

Second-century theologian Tertullian said: “we, little fishes, after the image of our Ichthys, Jesus Christ, are born in the water.”

Greeks, Romans, and many other pagans used the fish symbol before Christians. Hence the fish, unlike the cross, attracted less suspicion, making it a perfect secret symbol for persecuted believers. When threatened by Romans in the first centuries after Christ, Christians used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes. According to one ancient story, when a Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they had found a friend.

The fish’s presence in Area B of our dig only makes the site more fascinating and intriguing for Biblical Archaeology students and others.

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Pillar emerges from the dirt

This beautiful pillar has been steadily emerging form the dirt over the past two weeks, thanks to efforts of the volunteers and archaeologists at Kursi Beach Excavation. Is it the entrance to a Synagogue, a Church or something else? We’re all longing to find out! So far, all the evidence is pointing to a public building with a religious flavour. As the days go by, the dirt and rocks are cleared, and the site reveals its true beauty. There are many more pillars on the site, but most of them are much plainer than this one. It’ll be great to see what they used to hold up, what entrance they marked and who put them there.

Kursi Beach Archaeology

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Back to work at Kursi Beach

Digging has commenced at Kursi Beach on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, in Square B.

A tractor was brought in to remove a suspected landslide of mud that covered what may be an undiscovered village. A wall, part of what seems to be a very large building with an unknown function, was discovered. This wall appears to be older than the synagogue that we discovered last year, which we thought could be about 1500 years old. The tractor dug down to a depth of five metres.

The site is now active with cleaning and marking the field areas an ongoing task.

 

A tiny fish symbol found in the ancient Synagogue
The Entrance to the Synagogue
The Mosaic Season
The third season – 2017 by Dr Haim Cohen
bronze bowl
An ancient bronze bowl found at Kursi Beach
Pillar emerges from the dirt
Volunteers in the Holy land
Washing pottery in the Sea of Galilee
Schoolchildren at Kursi Beach
Schoolchildren uncover ancient pillars at Kursi Beach
Kursi Beach Archaeology
Back to work at Kursi Beach