Biblical Archaeology Review 30:3, May/June 2004

Strata: Crusader Fortress Found in Tiberias

Native Son Uncovers City’s Grand Past

By Judith Sudilovsky

Along the lakefront of Tiberias, archaeologists have uncovered remains of a 12th-century Crusader fortress, including a well-preserved gateway, part of the northern fortification wall, a moat once filled with lake water and architectural elements with Jewish-themed carvings indicating that earlier they may have been part of a synagogue from the Mishnah and Talmudic periods (second to sixth centuries A.D.).

Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Yosef Stepansky led the excavation last spring and summer. According to Stepansky, the most impressive find was an 11-foot-wide and 23-foot-long section of what he believes to be the northern fortification wall of the fortress, complete with a 10-foot-wide gateway. The exposed parts of the structure include a flagstone floor, hewn stone gateposts preserved to a height of 3 feet, grooves for the doorposts and the iron grill known as a portcullis. The fortification wall, also built of hewn stone, was excavated to a depth of 13 feet.

The excavators also discovered beautiful architectural fragments from an earlier, Roman-period, building, including a basalt hewn stone with what appears to be a five-branched candelabra, or menorah, and two parts of a decorated limestone lintel—one section incorporated into the gate and another discarded into what Stepansky believes was the moat—engraved with acanthus leaves and a Hercules wreath typical of Roman-era architecture.

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