The most important city in Galilee in the 1st century A.D. was Tiberias.  Founded by Herod Antipas in 20 A.D. and named after the emperor, Tiberius, the city served as the capital of the region.  In the New Testament, the Sea of Galilee is several times referred to as the “Sea of Tiberias,” indicating the city’s importance.  But for two reasons most Christian tourists to Israel don’t know much about it.  First, there is no record that Jesus ever visited the city.  None of his miracles or sermons here, if he did any, are written down.  Second, Tiberias today is the largest city in Galilee, and modern populations and ancient ruins don’t like each other.  But in the last few years, excavations of the ancient city have been taking place in areas not yet covered by apartment buildings and shopping malls.  This week, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced a plan to open an archaeological park to feature the Roman city.  The press release is posted in full here with a few photos, and some extracts are posted below.  The Jerusalem Post has the story in briefer form here.

Berko Park is slated to be magnet that will attract tourism from Israel and abroad to Tiberias and will expose the public at large to Tiberias’ glorious past, through all of its history which has its beginnings in the Early Roman period 2,000 years ago….
Berko Park extends across an area of approximately 100 dunams and is replete with ancient remains of the city of Tiberias that date from the time of the city’s establishment by Herod Antipas in the 1st century CE until the time of the Fatimid dynasty in the 11th century CE….
It is anticipated that the work in this part of the park will be finished this coming summer. Within the framework of the future expansion of Berko Park the Roman theater, which is located at the foot of Mount Berenice, is slated to be excavated. The theater is built of stone, is of imposing in size and faces east, thus those seated in it viewed the Sea of Galilee opposite them, the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon. The planners envision that this ancient and impressive theater will be used once again in modern times for the  presentation of grandiose performances….
Berko Park is part of a more extensive area where there are important archaeological finds that are all expected to be included in a large archaeological park in which there are ancient buildings that were previously excavated and that stand exposed today in the area. Included among them are the beit hamidrash that is ascribed to Rabbi Yochanan, which was exposed in the area of Tiberias’ waste water purification plant, the Anchor Church on Mount Berenice, another Byzantine church structure that was recently uncovered, the cardo, the marketplace, the aqueduct and the water reservoir. The city of Tiberias and the Israel Antiquities Authority will continue to act to rehabilitate and conserve these ancient structures, and to include them in a wide-scale tourism program.

Tiberias from south, tb022107066
Tiberias and Sea of Galilee from south
Previous stories about Tiberias on this blog report on the Roman theater and the ancient church.
HT: Joe Lauer

The Canadian Jewish News has an article about the archaeologist who found Iron Age period remains on the Temple Mount a few months ago

Yuval Baruch, left, made archeological history in October 2007 when he uncovered pottery artifacts on the site of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. They are considered to be the first physical evidence of human activity during the time of King Solomon’s Temple (the First Jewish Temple). Baruch, who is Jerusalem’s district archeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority, speaking at the Berney Theatre here, outlined his world-famous discovery as part of a lecture series put on by the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University.

And the interesting part:

“I was not supposed to be left there alone, as the Waqf always has someone present when Israeli archeologists are on the site. It was in the evening after 8 p.m., and by chance the Arab electrical workers left me and a member of my staff for about 15 minutes while they went to pray. When I was alone in that brief time, I found the pottery shards among dust near the bedrock level,” he says.

And what he found:

Baruch’s findings include animal bones; ceramic bowl rims, bases and body shards; the base of a juglet used to pour oil; the handle of a small juglet; and the rim of a storage jar. In addition, a piece of a whitewashed, handmade object was found. It may have been used to decorate a larger object or may have been the leg of an animal figurine. The finds are dated from eight-to six-century BCE.

And I bet you can’t believe this:

“The reaction of the Muslim authority [the Waqf] was to ignore the finds,” he adds, which he says was not surprising since over the years the Waqf has tried to undermine Jewish historical ties to the site. “The Waqf’s official position is that there was never a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount, he says.”

You can read the full story here.