The evidence of pottery production in the ancient Israeli town of Shikhin challenges notions that its residents were peasants who only made enough pottery for their own use, according to Samford University archaeologist James Strange.
The religion professor and his team wrapped up their fourth summer of work at the 93-acre archaeological site five miles northwest of Nazareth June 23. They found evidence of pottery production "at a huge volume," said Strange, whose team surveyed the site in 2011 and began excavations in 2012.
"The variety of forms made challenges the argument that Shikhin exported only jars," Strange added as he worked to close down the site after this summer's work. "The number of lamp molds found--we are up to 15 now--challenges the idea that lamps were made only in cities, and it presents the possibility that Shikhin became a northern lamp production center after 70 CE."
Strange noted that, with a discovery in the last week of this year's dig, "we now know that Shikhin's kilns produced the well-known 'winged,' 'darom' (southern) oil lamp."
It was thought earlier that lamps were made only in large cities, Strange said after last year's dig. "Shikhin is going to revolutionize our understanding of pottery production in Roman Galilee," he added. This year's work uncovered additional evidence of Shikhin's role in lamp production.
In the summer of 2013, Strange and his team also uncovered the remains of an unknown ancient synagogue in Shikhin. This year's dig uncovered additional information about the synagogue, including the foundation stone for the double threshold stones of the structure.
The archaeological crew of 20 included five Samford students: Mary Elizabeth Butts, a senior biology major from Beldon, Miss.; Hannah James, a senior religion major from London, Ky.; Mary Knapp, a sophomore classics major from Holland, Mich.; Christina Schmitt, a junior religion major from Johns Creek, Ga.; and Will Worthington, a sophomore religion major from Atlanta, Ga. Megan Cowperthwait, a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University, also was part of the Samford team.
Their goal was to learn more about Shikhin's residents "through the scraps we uncover of their workaday lives," said Strange. Shikhin, near the ancient Jewish city of Sepphoris, is important because it teaches about Galilean Jewish village life and its economy at the birth of both Christianity and the Judaism of the Talmud, according to Strange.
"This has been an exceptional dig season," he summarized. He credited the success to "an unusually cohesive group of curious, hard-working, smart, conscientious folks." Strange said that even though his crew supervisors were inexperienced at the outset, they studied hard, asked questions and helped train each other. "The archaeology got done and done well," he said.