History of Excavations
In 1988 a survey team from the University of South Florida Excavations at Sepphoris mapped out the two northern peaks of Shikhin and located many features of archaeological interest. The team was drawn to the site because of the thousands of pottery sherds that were visible at the base and on the slopes of the northern hill. It became clear to the surveyors that the hilltop must have been home to a thriving village, due to the number of cisterns, underground chambers, architectural fragments, and olive and grape presses that they found, in addition to the volume of pottery ling on the surface. Most importantly, the team found evidence of pottery production: they were able to locate the village’s old clay bed, and they found “clinkers,” broken parts of ceramic pots that slumped and bubbled in over-heated kilns. Those discoveries confirmed the Rabbis’ memory of the town as a pottery production center.
In 2011 a team from Samford University conducted a second mapping project, expanding the survey area to include all three of Shikhin’s hilltops and the surrounding countryside and nearby hills. This team relocated many features that the first team found and some other important ones besides, including evidence for a large public building on top and milestones of the Roman road that connected Sepphoris to the highway and the remains of a public building that sat on top of the hill. The team was also able to confirm earlier estimates of the settlement’s life span: founding in the Late Hellenistic period, flourishing in the Early Roman period, and abandonment by the end of the Byzantine period.
In 2012 a team of students from Samford University, the University of South Florida, and Centre College opened the first archaeological excavation at the site by sinking eight squares in two fields. At the crown of the northern hill the team found remains of a building with plaster floors that dates to the second century CE, and the corner of a house that probably dates to the Early Roman period. They also found simply thousands of pottery sherds from pots that had been ruined in production and thrown out. As a result of one season of excavations, we now know that the kilns at Shikhin were producing most known Galilean pottery forms, including oil lamps, and they were doing so at a volume that suggests they produced a surplus for trading.
In 2013 we were joined by students from Kinneret Academic College to continue and expand what we had begun in 2012. The most significant information we are learning continues to be about pottery production at the site. We have now found seven lamp molds and can confirm that Shikhin's potters produced lamps on-site. We also found the remains of Shikhin's previously unknown synagogue. The 2011 survey team located column fragments in a terrace wall, and in 2013 we finally located a drum from a heart-shaped column, one half of a massive threshold cut from hard limestone, and what appears to be part of a stylobate. In 2014 we will continue to excavate in the pottery production area, and the synagogue, searching for sealed loci to help us date our finds. Most of the activity on this part of the hill dates to the Late Roman period, with little signs of activity after 363.