All three of this month’s top reports in biblical archaeology come from the New Testament-era.
3. Roman Theater Identified at Hippos
A Roman theater, previously discovered was recently identified through further excavations at Hippos, a Roman city-state on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee. The theater was built south of the hilltop, along the saddle of the mountain, and oddly faced the setting sun, not the spectacular view of the Sea of Galilee below. It is part of a compound that may have been a sanctuary to Dionysus, built in the second century. Archaeologists have identified the theater’s stage and the half-circle of the orchestra. Excavations have revealed that the stage was decorated with ornate granite and marble columns, and the excavators estimate it may have had seating for 3500 people. They hope to expose the actual seats and statues that would have graced the theater in future digs.
2. Marble Head of Caesar Augustus Discovered in Italy
Construction workers in Isernia, a city in south-central Italy discovered the marble head from a statue of Caesar Augustus, who reigned from 27 BC – AD 14. The discovery came during renovations to the town’s walls, some of which were originally constructed during the Imperial Roman era. Despite the fact that only the head was discovered, and it is missing its nose, scholars were able to identify it as Caesar Augustus based on his signature hairstyle and features. The find will eventually be put on display at the nearby Museum of Santa Maria Delle Monache. Caesar Augustus was the Roman emperor who was reigning at the time of Christ (Luke 2:1-7). You can learn more about him in Episode 117 of Digging for Truth.
1. “Grotesque” Bronze Oil Lamp Discovered in Jerusalem Foundation Deposit
Archaeologists in Jerusalem have discovered a rare oil lamp shaped liked a grotesque face in the foundation of a building that dates to the time between the destruction in AD 70 and the Roman rebuilding of the city as Aelia Capitolina. The unusual bronze lamp was made using a sculpted mold, and features a goat-like, male half-face with a satyr’s beard and a horned forehead; it is the only one of its kind yet discovered in Israel. Archaeologists believe it was left as a foundation deposit in a large building that was constructed upon the famous “Pilgrim Way.” Foundation deposits were common in the ancient world and consisted of a ritual offering buried during construction to bring luck and provide symbolic defense.
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