Universität Bonn

Islamic Archaeology Research Unit of the University of Bonn

Khirbet Beit Loya, Excavation Season 2023, Excursions

Day One: 30 April 2023 – Visit of the site of Khirbet Beit Loya

The first day we were greeted by a surprisingly cold morning. Still, the site tour blew us away. The Byzantine Basilica, in an excellent state of conservation, testifies to iconoclasm, where all the figures, including the animals, are disfigured. Then we also visited the columbarium, which is one of the largest in Israel. During the 2nd revolt against Rome in 132 AD there was a kind of guerrilla warfare against the Roman soldiers, hence the presence on the site of so many hidden tunnels some of which led to this columbarium. There are old Byzantine oil presses, storage pits. This columbarium is very close to Tel Lachish, so there are different hypotheses as to why there are so many lockers. Some say it was for pilgrimage reasons, and others argue it was for sacrifices at this nearby site. The columbarium was used until the 1st revolt against Rome, in 66 AD.

06 April 2023 – Visit at Masada

Today was our day off as it is Passover and we went to Masada. Being a crucial site for Roman and Judean history that I roughly knew, seeing it and learning about it from Omer, our PhD student who excavated in several seasons in the city of Masada, was breath-taking.

The UNESCO site of Masada sits on top of a tell, facing the Dead Sea, and understanding the role of King Herod and his relationship/dynamics with the Romans in Palestine is essential. The Northern Palace was isolated into three different terraces, each of which featured Herod's private bathroom, a library, and a reception with a banquet hall. The walls of the palace were decorated with frescoes, recalling those of Pompeii but testifying to the Judaic belief (the absence of images), because Herod wanted to present himself as a Roman, and as a Jew. Additionally, and interestingly, the sleeping area and baths of the palace are reminiscent of a palace in Rome associated with Marcus Agrippa, who was Herod's patron, as it featured a central ornamental garden (aka viridarium), with the presence frigidarium, tepidarium and caldarium.

In general, being a site in the middle of the desert, the main concern of Herod and his people was the water supply - which is why the site is a wonderful example of aqueducts connecting the source of Ein Gedi which the 'we can see from afar, as well as gigantic cisterns which ingeniously collect rainwater.

Historically speaking, Masada is well known for its battle in 74 CE, where the Roman X legion besieged the fortress of Masada. From the top, you can see with the naked eye the various Roman camps where the soldiers slept in tents, as well as the remaining siege wall, bypassing the whole tell. The remaining Jews decided to commit suicide because being captured by the Romans and therefore becoming Roman slaves would have been worse for them.


Report by: Luna Silvestri

© columbarium
Masada 2.jpg
© Masada
© Masada
Wird geladen