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Galilee Contributor interview

See what select contributors from Volume 2 have to say about their work!

Yardenna Alexandre, Israel Antiquities Authority
Karm er-Ras near Kafr Kanna

Q: What do you think makes this archaeological guide to Galilean cities, towns, and villages  an important contribution to modern studies of the region, and to New Testament studies?
A:The archaeological guide is a fairly detailed record of the state of our knowledge on the Galilee in the Roman period, encompassing many important general issues and up-to-date accounts of recent archaeological excavations. The two volumes complement each other, and together make a real contribution to our knowledge of the region and its settlement processes in the Late Hellenistic to Roman periods.

Q: What do you personally find most fascinating or satisfying about your experience with archaeological work in the Galilee region?
A: I very much enjoy my work as an archaeologist working for the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Galilee, as the work is extremely varied. I mostly carry out salvage excavations as a result of which I find myself digging in different areas of the Galilee and exposing remains of different periods, from the prehistoric down to the Mamluk period. Each excavation involves a new learning process, interpreting the archaeological evidence and adding new narratives to the history of the land of Israel.

Rami Arav, University of Nebraska–Omaha
Bethsaida

Q: What do you think makes this archaeological guide to Galilean cities, towns, and villages  an important contribution to modern studies of the region, and to New Testament studies?
A: The contributors to this volume are scholars that spent long in the field, and they know their material.

Q: What do you personally find most fascinating or satisfying about your experience with archaeological work in the Galilee region?
A: I was born and raised in Galilee and since my childhood I wondered about the archaeological sites I have seen in Galilee. The more I learn about the past history and archaeology of Galilee, the more I find it interesting.

Mordechai Aviam, Kinneret Academic College, Institute for Galilean Archaeology
The Transformation from Galil Ha-Goyim to Jewish Galilee: The Archaeological Testimony of an Ethnic Change

Q: What do you think makes this archaeological guide to Galilean cities, towns, and villages  an important contribution to modern studies of the region, and to New Testament studies?
A: The important contribution of the survey and guide of Galilean towns and villages is first of all in its collection in one volume. Usually, most of the descriptions and discussions of this topic is in articles or books which mention a site here and a village there. Collecting many of the important sites in one book, not only makes it easier for scholars, students, and readers, but also makes it more comprehensive.

Each of the sites mentioned in this volume is a great contribution for the study of the region in the Early Roman period, and in every chapter the reader will find the latest discoveries and discussions on the subject.

Q: What do you personally find most fascinating or satisfying about your experience with archaeological work in the Galilee region?
A: As someone who has researched the Galilee for the last thirty-eight years in excavations and surveys, I think that one of the most fascinating groups of questions and evidence concerning Galilee is the field of social stratification of Jewish Galilee in the first century. This field was studied mainly by historians and sociologists who based the assumption mainly on textual sources. The excavations of Yodefat brought to light a lot of archaeological material and therefore made some crucial changes in the way we look upon Jewish society in first century Galilee.

Andrea M. Berlin, Boston University
Kedesh of the Upper Galilee

Q: What do you think makes this archaeological guide to Galilean cities, towns, and villages  an important contribution to modern studies of the region, and to New Testament studies?
A: In Volume 1, the chapters present up-to-date, thoughtful discussions of fundamental topics, such as the nature of the Galilean economy, the intersection of politics and social movements, and the character of daily life, that are fully informed by all available evidence, both written and material/archaeological. In Volume 2, the archaeological guide, we can connect these new insights directly with specific inhabited places, which in turn allows us to better appreciate what life was like for their inhabitants. Together, these volumes give us a view of Galilee that feels very current; they make us feel closer to the experiences of ancient Galileans.

Q: What do you personally find most fascinating or satisfying about your experience with archaeological work in the Galilee region?
A: Galilee is fascinating because its specific topography and geography have resulted in similar types of historical events and interactions recurring. It is a region that has encouraged me to contemplate the connections between place and event, to appreciate the ways in which people use events to charge a place with meaning, and to wonder at the enduring power that history affords landscape.

Katia Cytryn-Silverman, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tiberias, from Its Foundation to the End of the Early Islamic Period

Q: What do you think makes this archaeological guide to Galilean cities, towns, and villages  an important contribution to modern studies of the region, and to New Testament studies?
A: This unique guide puts the findings of the various sites and areas in context, allowing a better view of the dynamics of the whole region throughout the various periods. For the archaeologist it is a great source for learning about neighboring sites, similarities and differences, trends and different ways of interpretation; for the historian and scholar of New Testament studies, it is an opportunity to access a tremendous amount of up-to-date data on the many sites connected to the historical and religious events of the region.

Q: What do you personally find most fascinating or satisfying about your experience with archaeological work in the Galilee region?
A: As director of the New Tiberias Excavation Project, work at this important religious and cultural centre not only of the Galilee but of the whole region is rewarding. From gradually exposing and adding data for the reconstruction of the Roman polis, looking for evidence for the early Jewish activity in the city, and unfolding unknown facts on the Jewish-Christian city, to adding knowledge on the dynamics between the three monotheistic religions during the early Islamic period, the continuous archaeological work at Tiberias is yet to provide much data crucial for understanding the city and its impact in the surroundings.

Stefano De Luca, Magdala Project Director
Magdala/Taricheae

Q: What do you think makes this archaeological guide to Galilean cities, towns, and villages  an important contribution to modern studies of the region, and to New Testament studies?
A: Contextualizing ancient literature, whether Jewish, Christian, or Pagan, within its own historical coordinates based on a high degree of adherence to the realia, is very much a desideratum for Galilean studies. The quantity and quality of the most recent data unearthed by extensive archaeological excavations in the region has been considerable, especially in the Sea of Galilee's district (Bethsaida, Capernaum, Kh. Wadi Ḥamam, Magdala, Tiberias, Ḥammat Tiberias), and in both the major (Sepphoris) and minor inland settlements (Nazareth,  Karm er-Ras, Kanna, Shikhin, Kh. Qana, Ḥananya, Ḥuqoq, Jotapata/Yodefat) of the Lower Galilee, as well as of the Upper Galilee (Gush Ḥalav, Meiron, Nabratein, Kh. Shema', Kedesh). Volume 2 of Galilee in the Late Second Temple and Mishnaic Periods insightfully offers detailed reports on all these important sites.

These data are crucial for both supplementing and for properly interpreting the evidence we have from Josephus, the early rabbinic texts, and the New Testament.  Some of the discussion in this volume will probably have profound repercussions on the ongoing New Testament quest for the historical Jesus because they force us to redraw a completely new picture of the region, especially insofar as the coastal sites of the Sea of Galilee are concerned, which were so intimately connected with Jesus’ ministry, early Christian movements, and Mishnaic and later Judaism. It is hoped that the example of this work so scrupulously and masterfully edited by David A. Fiensy and James Riley Strange, will be followed by a similar work on the Galilee in the Byzantine and Islamic periods, possibly including a summary of Caesarea and Akko, but also of the Decapolis, especially the cities of Hippos and Gadara, with which the Galilee always maintained close contacts.

Q: What do you personally find most fascinating or satisfying about your experience with archaeological work in the Galilee region?
A: Besides being indisputably a privilege, carrying out archaeological work at a New-Testament Galilean site is a great responsibility which calls for a rigorous accounting of the results, even those that do not have a readily apparent significance. The need to contextualize the remains and artifacts within the broader Mediterranean framework can only be met via interdisciplinary cooperation among international scholars with different and complementary expertise. Any archaeologist working on a site must bear the serious burden of keeping abreast of the knowledge from other sources available for the history of the region, since what s/he, patiently and with great difficulty, brings to light, layer by layer, is not more than a page of the same history that is intertwined with those from the teachings of the rabbinic sages, or those of Josephus, or the stories and message of Jesus and his followers. Reciprocally enlightening each other, both the literary and material-culture's documents concur to reveal in full the meaningful pages of this fascinating Galilee's history.

C. Thomas McCollough, Centre College
Khirbet Qana

Q: What do you think makes this archaeological guide to Galilean cities, towns, and villages  an important contribution to modern studies of the region, and to New Testament studies?
A: The idea of treating archaeological sites in a regional setting (i.e., Galilee) has been discussed, debated, and promoted for some time. I am convinced, as are a number of other archaeologists working in Israel/Palestine, that a regional approach is the most fruitful. These volumes are in some ways pioneering efforts in the regional approach, and as such I am convinced will make evident the value of such. On a more specific level, I think these volumes will prove especially helpful in advancing research on village-urban interaction in the Roman and Byzantine periods in Galilee. Allusions to this interaction have been made in a number of publications on Galilee, but they were based on little or at least incomplete data. These volumes will help insure a more substantial base for this research trajectory.

Q: What do you personally find most fascinating or satisfying about your experience with archaeological work in the Galilee region?
A: Much of my research has been devoted to Jewish-Christian interaction in the formative years of the church and rabbinic Judaism. To that end, Galilee is a wonderful place to watch such unfold in the art and architecture of the villages and cities of this region. In the urban (Sepphoris) and rural (Khirbet Qana) sites, what I have excavated there is intriguing and for that matter critical evidence of the ways in which Judaism responded to the growing population of Christians in the late Roman and Byzantine periods. Moreover, working in the Galilee invariably puts you into contact with the material culture that is relevant to giving shape to the context of the early years of the Jesus movement (and Jesus himself) as well as the context out which the Mishnah evolved.

Eric M. Meyers, Duke University
Meiron in Upper Galilee, Nabratein: Synagogue and Environs, and The Ancient Synagogue and Village at Khirbet Shema‘

Q: What do you think makes this archaeological guide to Galilean cities, towns, and villages  an important contribution to modern studies of the region, and to New Testament studies?
A: Galilee plays so important a role in understanding early Judaism and Christianity in the Holy Land that it is essential for any serious scholar or student to learn about “facts on the ground.” It is impossible to appreciate the complexity of the rise of these two religions without a detailed knowledge of the region in which it first flourished.

Q: What do you personally find most fascinating or satisfying about your experience with archaeological work in the Galilee region?
A: The creation of new data is always the basis for a new understanding of anything. Archaeology provides such data.

Carl Savage, Drew University
Hamath Tiberias and Bethsaida

Q: What do you think makes this archaeological guide to Galilean cities, towns, and villages  an important contribution to modern studies of the region, and to New Testament studies?
A: This guide is really the first of its kind to make accessible all in one place data and interpretations from the sites used in archaeological reconstructions of life in the Late Second Temple/New Testament times. For the average person, this is a well-spring of information that would have required a lot of library time to gather, even if one knew how to do that sort of research. Further, the style of writing is intended to present the archaeology in language that the nonspecialist can readily grasp. This allows readers and scholars not familiar with the archaeological excavation process and the interpretation of its recovered finds and features to understand the perspectives and interpretations that those working closely with those material finds express.

Q: What do you personally find most fascinating or satisfying about your experience with archaeological work in the Galilee region?
A: There are two things that still are fascinating and satisfying to me as I work in the field: One, there is that moment of discovery excitement. I am seeing, touching, holding something ancient, something “lost” for thousands of years, that connects me with the people who lived in those times that I read about in texts. And then two, after you have collected all the material, that moment you sometimes have when you connect those finds, those structures, those patterns of interaction and trade that they indicate, in a way that enables you to see more clearly how those people may have thought about and lived out their beliefs—religious, social, and political.

Chad S. Spigel, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas
Huqoq in the Late Hellenistic and Roman Periods

Q: What do you think makes this archaeological guide to Galilean cities, towns, and villages  an important contribution to modern studies of the region, and to New Testament studies?
A: Unlike textual evidence for the Hellenistic and Early Roman periods, which may be reinterpreted but is rarely supplemented with new finds, the archaeological evidence is continuously expanding. Reading the constant flow of archaeological reports is a difficult task for archaeologists, let alone nonspecialists. Yet, the information in these reports is crucial for any holistic understanding of Galilean, Jewish, and Christian histories. These volumes make an important contribution because not only do they provide important data in a single place for scholars and nonscholars alike, they even provide up-do-date information for excavations that are still taking place.

Q: What do you personally find most fascinating or satisfying about your experience with archaeological work in the Galilee region?
A: Personally, doing archaeology in the Galilee is fascinating because there are so many different constituencies interested in our work. From archaeologists interested in the details of ancient life; to historians looking for material evidence to supplement literary sources; to religious communities looking for information about religious figures, beliefs, and practices; to media outlooks looking for an interesting story; the data we collect and analyze has so much to offer to so many people. I may not always agree with how the data are used by each of these groups, but the fact that they are used is both motivating and satisfying because it means that our work is included in diverse, and often messy, conversations that ultimately create history.

James F. Strange, University of South Florida
Huqoq in the Late Hellenistic and Roman Periods

Q: What do you think makes this archaeological guide to Galilean cities, towns, and villages  an important contribution to modern studies of the region, and to New Testament studies?
A: Volume 2 is without precedent in terms of detail, thoroughness, and up-to-date information. In some Bible dictionaries some information can be found, but there are really no competitors for our attention.

Q: What do you personally find most fascinating or satisfying about your experience with archaeological work in the Galilee region?
A: I feel very fortunate to have excavated so long in the Galilee and gradually watched this region become a target for well-conceived archaeological research. The region is after all the place where Christianity emerged and where second-century Jewish mysticism also emerged.