Research Centers

Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology

  • About

    The institute, headed by Dr. Zvi Gal, was established in 2007 and in 2010 it has become a research center within Kinneret Academic College. Its aime is to enhance archaeological research of Galilee during antiquity. As for 2018 the institute has sixteen members and fellows, whose academic scope varies: Protohistory, Biblical archelogy, archaeology and history of classical periods, medievals, archaeozoology as well as preservation and conservation.

    The institute’s activities include surveys, excavations, research, professional workshops, conferences and publications. The institute sponsors the “Galilean archaeology Workshop”, which holds ten academic sessions annually, with the participation of twenty–thirty scholars of various institutions.

    The institute publishes the “Land of Galilee” series devoted to studies and excavations reports. The series is produced by Ostracon. The institute has agreements for academic collaboration with several European and American universities and colleges, as well as the Israel Antiquities Authority.

    The institute is located in the restored buildings of the old Hidjaz train (the ‘Valley Train’) within the southern campus of the college at Tzemach.


    During the last years the Institute was involved in three international excavations and 4 local researches:

    1. Tel Rekhesh with a Japanese team excavating the upper level of a first – second centuries Jewish farmstead, which includes a unique small synagogue.

    2. With American team from Samford University, Alabama, at the Ancient Jewish village of Shikhin.

    3. With NYACK College NY, excavating an ancient Jewish village at Bet HaBek/el-Araj, identified as Bethsaida/Julias.

    4. The renewed research and study of the Chalcolithic burial cave at Peqiin.

    5. A pioneering excavation at the biblical site of Tel Rosh in Upper Galilee.

    6. An ISF (Israel Science Foundation) research project “Economic growth and religious materiality in Christian Galilee in Late Antiquity”.

    7. The last stage of the important research of the ancient Jewish synagogue at Umm el Qanatir in the Golan.


  • Institute Staff

    Dr. Zvika Gal

    Born in Tel Aviv in 1946. Ph.D. from the University of Tel Aviv (1983). Senior researcher in biblical archeology. Conducted a comprehensive archeological survey of the Lower Galilee, and numerous excavations. Including Horvat Rosh Zayit and the chalcolithic burial cave at Pekiin (together with D. Shalem and H. Smithline). Published a large number of articles and books. Served as the northern district archeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority, and later the authority’s publications manager and editor in chief. Taught at the Department of the Land of Israel at the University of Haifa, and was director of the Hecht Museum. He currently engages in research and is an academic and independent publisher (together with D. Shalem).

    Dr. Mordehai (Motti) Aviam

    מSenior lecturer in the Department of Land of Israel Studies

    Born in Israel in 1953.

    Ph.D. in Land of Israel Studies and archeology from Bar Ilan University, on the subject of Yodfat – A Test Case for the Development of the Jewish Community of the Galilee during the Second Temple Period

    Senior lecturer in archeology of the classical eras in the Galilee. Served as the Western Galilee District Archeologist for the Israel Antiquities Authority, in which he capacity he participated in a large number of surveys, excavations and research projects. He has directed many excavations, including at Yodfat, Arabel and Kirbat A-Shura. He established the Institute for Galilean Archaeology which is currently part of the Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee. He taught at the ORT Braude Academic College, in the general studies department, at the Avshalom Institute and at the University of Rochester, New York.

    He has published a large number of articles on the subject of the Jewish and Christian populations of the Galilee, between the Hellenistic Era and the Byzantine Era, and has attended archeology conferences around the world.

    Dr. Jacob Ashkenazi

    Senior lecturer in the Department of Land of Israel Studies

    Ph.D. from the University of Haifa on the topic of The Patriarchy of Jerusalem, from its Founding to the Arab Conquest.

    He engages in research on the Christian church in the Land of Israel in the first seven centuries CE, with the emphasis on nuns and monks, society and religion, economics and politics and church politics.

    In the last few years he has engaged in joint research work with Dr. Motti Aviam, on Christianity in the Galilee towards the end of ancient times. The research incorporates archeological finds and literary sources, and uses comparative models that relate to other Christian domains in the Levant towards the end of ancient times.

    Prof. Chaim Ben David

    Senior lecturer in the Department of Land of Israel Studies

    Ph.D. in Land of Israel Studies and archeology from Bar Ilan University on the subject of The Community in the Lower Golan Heights in the Late Second Temple Era, the Mishnah and the Talmud.

    He has conducted surveys in the Golan Heights and directed archeological excavations of synagogues at Dir Aziz and Um El Kanatir. Engages in research on ancient routes in Negev and Transjordan, and in research on milestones in Israel.

    Dr. Ram Buchnik

    Lecturer in the Department of Land of Israel Studies

    Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in life sciences from Bar Ilan University, and a Ph.D. in archeology and archeozoology from the University of Haifa, on the subject of The Consumption of Meat in the Jewish Community in the Late Second Temple Era.

    Researches remains of animals from archeological sites (archeozoology) dating to the classical eras. In recent years he has supervised a range of research projects on sites in Jerusalem (the lower reaches of the Kidron Valley, the Givati Parking Lot), the Judean Desert (Qumran) and the surrounding area. The research work includes archeological and archeozoological remains, and also refers to literary sources of the times.

    Dr. Dina Shalem

    Research associate at the Institute for Galilean Archaeology.

    Ph.D. in archeology from the University of Haifa, on the subject of The Iconography of Ossuaries and Burial Pots from the Late Chalcolithic Era in the Land of Israel in the Context of the Ancient East.

    Master’s degree in archeology form the University of Haifa, on the subject of Sites of the Galilean Hills from the Chalcolithic Era – Geographic Dispersal and Ceramic Characteristics.

    Bachelor’s degree in archeology and Land of Israel studies, University of Haifa.

    Principal areas of research: the Chalcolithic Era, burial customs and artistic aspects during the Chalcolithic Era and Neolithic Era, and surveys.

    Amitai Aharoni

    B.A. (Hons) from the departments of archeology and bible studies from the University of Haifa.

    Collaborated with Motti Aviam in surveys on all the sites and routes in the Galilee in the last 35 years. Participated in excavations at Yodfat, Baram, Khirbet A-Shura and Horfish, and assisted the late Prof. Yizhar Hirschfeld at excavations at Ein Teina and Tiberias. He took part in excavations at the Chalcolithic cave at Pekiin, and worked with Motti Aviam on a survey of the cemeteries at Zipori.


  • Late Antique Pilgrim Monasteries in Galilean Loca Sancta

    From its early stages monasticism was related to pilgrimage due to the crucial role that the monks played in looking to the needs of pilgrims, either secular or sacral.

    The inextricably link between pilgrims and monks is attested in many holy sites in Palestine, both in desert and inhabited landscapes. Jerusalem and its hinterland, together with the pilgrim roads that lead to mount Nebo in the east, Mount Sinai in the south and Egypt in the south-west, were dotted with dozens of pilgrim Churches that were served and maintained by monks that activities’ are documented both in literary sources and archaeological finds.

    Although there almost no written source mentioning a pilgrim monastery in the Galilee, archaeological excavations have uncovered remains of monasteries in sites such as Sepphoris, Nazareth, Magdala, Tabgha, Capernaum and Kursi. It seems though that the place of Galilee on the pilgrim map of Late Antiquity was much more significant than is apparent from the itineraries of early Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. In this study we will survey the evidence to pilgrim monasteries in the Galilee and analyse the place of monasticism in the Galilean Loca sancta in Late Antiquity.

  • Horbat Bata: a Village and its Monasteries – a Portrait of a Rural Christian Landscape in Late Antiquity

    During the first half of the fifth century CE, new settlements began to appear in Western Galilee. Most were villages, yet there are quite a few indications, following surveys and excavations, that some of those settlements might be identified as monasteries. Previous studies on monasticism in Late Antiquity have overlooked the monasteries in Western Galilee. Due to the lack of literary data and the misinterpretation of archaeological finds, very little – if anything – was known about the monastic backdrop of this region. However, surveys and excavations conducted in the area of the modern city of Karmiel have revealed an unusual setting. At least seven Christian sites are scattered within the city limits, one of which, Horbat Bata, was a fortified village. In a radius of a few kilometers on the hills near and around this village are six compounds that were probably monasteries. The concentration of finds in a small area and the relatively good state of their preservation, together with a comparative study that takes into account nearby monastic landscapes in the Orient, allow us to view Karmiel as a test case for a better understanding of the relations between villages and monasteries in the Late Antique east.

  • ADecorated Fragment of a Tyrian Lead Coffin from a Cemetery at Akhziv 

    Mordechai Aviam and Dina Shalem.

    For more information >> click here

  • unpublished fragments from the synagogue at Gush Halav 

    Mordechai Aviam.

    For more information >> click here

  • Kfar Hananya ware madein yodefat 

    Mordechai Aviam.

    For more information >> click here

  • Ancient Synagogue as public space in Judaism

    For more information >> click here

  • Peqi`in

    A Late Chalcolithic Burial Site, Upper Galilee, Israel

    The Institute for Galilean Archaeology, Kinneret Academic College, 2013


  • Ancient Israelites imported lead coffins from Tyre, say archaeologists

    haaretz, Monday, September 15, 2014.
    For more information >> click here
  • Samson, the Hero of the People of Dan, In Eastern Lower Galilee

    Aharoni Amitai, Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology, Kinneret Academic College

    Jodi Magnes’ preliminary publication of some of the scenes in the mosaic floor from the synagogue of Hoquq , is highly appreciated as it is a very important contribution to the understanding of cultural and artistic life of Jews in the Roman-Byzantine period.

    In my comment here I would like to illuminate and discuss mainly the three published scenes which contain two depictions from the large biblical stories cycle of Samson. The first was published already on February 2013 in which there are two fox’s tails are bound together with a flaming torch in between, and the second, which was uncovered in the summer of 2013 in which Samson is carrying the doors of Gaza on his back. In the third is the hero in front of an enemy horseman in the battlefield.

    A year ago, a semi-popular article in “HaAretz” newspaper was published by E. Reiner and D. Amit, and lately they both published another article discussing the same suggestion concerning the appearance of the stories of Samson in both neighboring synagogues mosaic floor: Hoquq which was excavated by Magness and Wadi Hamam which was excavated by Leibner. U. Leibner identified the gigantic figure appeared in the mosaic floor as Samson killing the Philistines.

    Reiner and Amit tried to connect between Samson and Helios/Sol in his chariot which appears in some synagogues mosaic floors, and suggested that it reflects a local, rural cult in which the sun was worshiped in the Galilean villages around Tiberias. They also tried to combine it with the figure of Joshua Bin Nun who had a special control powers over the sun, and of whom his burial place was Timnat Serah/Heres which was identified by local people at the Arbel Valley.

    This view is rather revolutionary. In the study of Jewish mosaic art it is very common, since the publications of M. Avi Yonah and E. Urbakh, that the scene of Helios is decorative or symbolic and has no meaning of worshiping in the synagogue.

    It was also suggested and common that the biblical scenes in the synagogues, whether on walls, as in Dura Europos, or mosaic floors, reflect stories of strength, saving and redemption. They expressed the Jewish belief that the salvation from the foreign powers and the erection of the third Temple in Jerusalem, will come by God’s hand and strength, and indeed, the hand of God appears in the mosaic floor at Bet Alfa, the wall painting at Dura, and in the burial chapel at El-Bagwat in the Western Desert in Egypt (and of course it is the same in the biblical narratives).

    In 2012 S. Fogel wrote that Samson was excepted as another figure of the Messiah and in 2013 it was M. Grey who also discussed Samson as a Messiah.He asks the question why the figures of Abraham, Moses or David are missing from the mosaics which were discovered in Eastern Galilee, if the massage behind these mosaic floors is salvation and hope. They both agreed that Samson is a Messianic figure.

    Bellow, I would like to give another interpretation for the appearance of Samson stories cycle on two mosaic floors of Eastern Lower Galilee synagogues.

    My view is that these stories reflect the common notion of the Eastern Lower Galilee villagers that they are the descendants of the Dan tribe of which his traditional hero is Samaon.

    It was Y. Yadin who already suggested that the tribe of Dan was one of the “Sea People” which had a special affinity to Samson. Yadin tried to show the possible connections with Dan and the Danaoi in the Egyptian sources and the Dannanu from the inscription of Azitoad in Kartape, Cilicia, and the people of the Adana Valley on the Cilician shore.

    The German archaeologist Budde, while excavating in Mophsohestia of Cilicia, not far from Adana, uncovered a basilical building which is facing east, paved with a glorious mosaic floor in which some sections of Samson’s scenes preserved. Avi Yonah supported the identification of this building as a synagogue, and if he is right, there are three sites with depiction of Samson’s stories, connected to ancient Dan.

    Already Ishtori Haparchi mentioned that the tomb of Dan, son of Jacob (See photo), is east of Mount Tabor (near modern Kibbutz Gazit). There was a small Arab village by the name of Dana which was identified as the Talmudic village Kfar Dan. Architectural fragment from an ancient synagogue were found at the site including a lintel with a menorah. It strengthening the hypothesis that there were strong traditions in Eastern Lower Galilee, connected to the tribe of Dan.

    Further support to my hypothesis I find in the appearance of a horseman in both mosaic floors, in connection to the acts of Samson. I believe that this figure hints to the biblical verses in Genesis 49: 16-19: “Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward. I have waited for thy salvation, O LORD. Jacob’s blessing to Dan can be read as an expectation that redemption will come to Israel from Dan, and surly it will be led by their hero – Samson.

    I think that there is a way to support the claim of ancient tribal traditions in comparing it with Middle East tribal, Bedouins traditions. Although there are Bedouins who are already living for two or three generations in towns and cities, they are still carrying with them all their tribal traditions and stories as well as names. The same is in many tribes in Africa.

    We probably have to wait for the next seasons at Hoquq. We are allowed to believe that there will be more “Samsonic” scenes of un-natural actions, such as the annunciation to Samson’s mother, Samson slashing the lion, Samson killing the Philistines with the donkey jaw bone, and finally, Samson between the pillars of the Dagon temple in Gaza, and then we will be more assure in the suggested theory.

    The author near the traditional tomb of Dan

  • Yodefat Project and the Institute for Galilean Archaeology

    For more information >> click here

  • The Sabbath Boundary at Timrat / ERETZ Magazine

    For more information >> click here

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