By Prof. Arthur Segal, Head of the Project
and Michael Eisenberg, Asst. to Director
Hippos Excavation Project
Zinman Institute of Archaeology
University of Haifa, Haifa
The third season of excavations at Sussita, undertaken by the Zinman
Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa in cooperation with
the Polish Academy of Sciences, was conducted throughout July 2002. The
expedition was led by Prof. Arthur Segal, with Prof. Jolanta Mlynarczyk
of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Dr. Mariusz Burdajewicz of the
National Museum in Warsaw. This season we were joined by a team from the
Theological Department of Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota,
USA, headed by Prof. Mark Schuler.
B. Excavation Areas
In addition to the areas excavated during the previous seasons, two new
areas were excavated. All together 4 areas were excavated during this
- The Hellenistic Compound
This excavation area includes mainly the area known from previous
seasons as the "Northern Complex" and the other areas which were
excavated within it and immediately adjacent to it.
- The Northwest Church
the excavation of the church's main hall has been completed.
The industrial complex (wine and oil presses) located to the south of
the church was excavated as well.
- The Northeast Church
This church is situated 50 m. East to the Northwest Church. Excavation
there started this season.
- The East City Gate
The main goal of the excavations at this area was to clear the debris
which covered the structure and to expose the main features of the gate
C. The Hellenistic Compound
At the end of the third season, it became clear that the main component
of this area was actually a Hellenistic compound (temenos) bounded on
its western and southern sites by an imposing, beautifully built wall.
About 40 m. of this solid, massively built wall has been exposed during
this season. Although the excavation of this large Hellenistic compound
is only just beginning, it is already clear that what we have here is an
extensive sanctuary which also continued to fulfill its original
religious function in later periods. This assumption is based on the
additional find of architectural fragments originating from Roman
building as well. In addition, the Northwest Church has been built upon
the remains of both Hellenistic and Roman remains.
The impressive southern wall of the Hellenistic compound is noteworthy,
especially for its excellent construction with its layers arranged with
great care in a uniform pattern of headers and stretchers. The basalt
ashlars have dressed margins which give the impression of order and
What is important to mention here is the fact that so far very few
Hellenistic structures were exposed in the Decapolis cities. Most of the
architectural remains exposed in Gadara, Gerasa, Pella, or Scythopolis
belong to Roman-Byzantine periods. The very fact that the Hellenistic
Compound has been found in Hippos is in itself a very important
contribution to the architectural history of this area of the
D. The Northwest Church
The main effort of the Polish team excavating the Northwest Church
concentrated on exposing the southern aisle of the church. While
cleaning the mosaic floor of the aisle, two Greek inscriptions were
found. Those inscriptions were incorporated into the mosaic which covers
the entire southern aisle of the Church.
One of the inscriptions is
located in the intercolumnium between the second and the third column of
the colonnade separating the main hall from the southern aisle. The
one-line text reads as follows: Heliodora offered half of the nomisma
for the costs of the mosasic.
The second inscription is found to the east part of the southern aisle
and reads as follows: Petros offered half of the nomisma (---) for the
costs of the mosaic.
The two inscriptions found in the church are votive texts commemorating
the offering made by two pious members of the Christian community of
Hippos who donated half of the nomisma each for the costs of the mosaic
pavement in one of the local churches.
E. The Northeast Church
Approximately 50 m. to the east of the Northwest Church is another
church which we named the Northeast Church. This structure has been
excavated by a team from Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA,
headed by Prof. Mark Schuler. During this season, only the eastern part
of the main hall including the apse has been partially excavated. In the
southeast corner of the main hall, a sarcophagus half-buried in the
church floor has been located.
It is our intension to continue the exploration of the Northeast Church
in the next season.
F. The Eastern City Gate
During the 3rd season of excavations, it was decided to expose the
remains of the eastern city gate located at the east end of the
The eastern gate of Hippos was incorporated into the city wall and
situated at the east end of a cliff overlooking the saddle that links
the mountain of Hippos to the east-western slopes of the Golan Heights.
The gate has one passageway with two towers on either side that protrude
eastward from the wall.
The unique aspect of the eastern gate of Hippos is the lack of symmetry
with regard to the placement of two towers in relation to the gate
itself and the totally different plane of these towers.
The round tower, which is incorporated into the wall of the city,
created a killing field opposite the gate itself facing towards the
saddle and also towards the slope to the south of it. The square tower,
on the other hand, which is placed at the edge of the cliff, does not
create any real killing field except for the narrow space near the gate
The city wall of Hippos and the city gate itself are built of local
basalt stone. The construction quality of the gate is significantly
superior to that of the wall. The round tower itself is built from a
relatively small-sized ashlar uniformly built of alternating layers of
headers and stretchers without binding materials.
G. The next season
The 4th season of excavations at Hippos will start at the beginning of
July and will last 5 full weeks. As in previous seasons, the students
from Haifa University will be joined by the teams from Warsaw and from
Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota, and naturally volunteers from
all over the world wishing to join our teams are warmly welcomed.
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