Importance of the Site
Because Shikhin sat a scant mile from Sepphoris (around a 20-minute walk), and over the same Roman highway that the city oversaw, the site stands to teach us much about Galilean village life in relation to the city. What we learn about Shikhin will have important implications for the beginnings of Christianity and Formative Judaism, for this Galilee formed the world of Jesus’ ministry and the Sages who compiled the Mishnah.
Our two primary research questions are about pottery production and economy, and they have implications for broader questions about categories such as “Judaism”–“Hellenism” and “village/countryside”–“city”. The first question is, “Where did Shikhin distribute its pottery?” After one season of excavating we can show that Shikhin’s potters were producing most known Galilean forms, including lamps, and that they were doing so in great quantities. The volume of waste sherds found—broken bits of pots and lamps that failed in production—suggests that Shikhin’s kilns were putting out far more than could be used by the villagers, which in turn suggests that pottery manufacturing was one of the village’s export goods. The question of which Galilean villages were pottery manufacturing centers, and to whom they distributed their wares, is critical for understanding the Galilean economy.
The second question is, “Did Shikhin participate with other Galilean Jewish villages in an economy that bypassed the city markets of Sepphoris and Tiberias, or that existed alongside them?” Recent excavations at other Galilean village sites have been discovering that Hasmonean coins minted in the Hellenistic periods remained in use into the Roman periods. At the same time, in some of these villages, no city coins of Sepphoris (which was granted authority to mint its own coins) have turned up. These two pieces of evidence suggests that some villages resisted to the city’s economy and established an alternative economic system that kept ancient Jewish coins in use. At Shikhin, we want to know if we will discover the same pattern.