Monday, March 23, 2020

Judean Refugees in Ancient Galilee?

Biblical Archaeology Review
Oil Lamps Shedding Light on an Ancient Migration

Were there human migrations and refugees in antiquity? Yes, of course. Environmental change, wars, religious conflicts, and poverty are among the most powerful factors that have been driving human migration for millennia—from the Sea Peoples to the Huns to the Quakers to modern Syrians or Guatemalans. How do we learn about forced or voluntary migration in antiquity, with no newspapers or TV coverage to inform us? Can human displacement be detected archaeologically, if contemporary written records are not available?

In his article “Shedding Light on the Judean Refugees,” in the Spring 2020 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, James Riley Strange of the Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, focuses on a very specific ancient migration: Judeans fleeing their homes and resettling in Galilee as a result of the First Jewish Revolt and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.

Photo by Gabi Laron
 Courtesy of the Shikhin Excavation Project
“Archaeologists studying Galilee normally do not have much cause to think about refugees arriving in the region following 70 C.E. This is because we have little archaeological evidence of the abandonment of Judean villages after the revolt,” says Strange, explaining why we never hear about Judean refugees in Galilee. If there are no signs of people leaving Judea in any considerable numbers, is there any archaeological evidence of Judean refugees arriving in Galilee? This is also problematic, because material culture and the underlying customs and religion of Judeans and Galileans in this period were virtually the same.

This fragment of a ring around the lamp’s fill hole shows a seven-branched menorah flanked by palms (lulavs) growing from the menorah’s base. This mold-made lamp is an example of the Darom type, which likely originated in Judea and might be an evidence for Judean refugees.

Read more here.

Artifacts of great antiquity (23,000+ years) have been found in Galilee at Ohalo II, an Upper Paleolithic encampment on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. At Ohalo II, archaeologists also found wooden objects on brush-hut floors. They include a bark plank, pencil-shaped specimens with longitudinal shavings that may have been decorative or symbolic, and an incised wooden object that is identical in size and incision pattern to a gazelle bone implement found in a grave.

Related reading: The Eighteenth Division of Priests in Nazareth; Early Christian Amulet Found in Galilee; The Significance of Galilee in Matthew's Gospel

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