Biblical Archaeology Review 44:6, November/December 2018

Strata: Concealed Cross

Overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the site of Hippos-Sussita witnessed nearly a millennium of civilization (from the second century B.C.E. to the mid-eighth century C.E.). The recent discovery of a decorated brass weight sheds additional light on a complex chapter of the site’s history: the seventh century C.E., when its predominantly Christian inhabitants were under Islamic control.

In 2013, archaeologists found the weight in the remains of a Byzantine church at Hippos-Sussita. A large stain—thought at first to be dirt—covered its front. A recent analysis, however, shows that the stain was actually made of a metallic paste (of tin and lead) that had intentionally been placed over a silver cross.

Once the stain was removed, it was clear that the weight’s front had originally depicted a cross on Calvary (where Jesus was crucified) surrounded by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where he was buried). Two Greek letters—signifying its weight of 6 ounces—appear on its back.

Hippos-Sussita was under control of the first Islamic caliphate of the Umayyad dynasty from the mid-seventh century C.E. until the site was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 and subsequently abandoned. The cross on the Byzantine weight had intentionally been obscured to ensure that the weight could be used even under the new administration. Part of the silver cross had been scratched out—to maintain the same weight—and a stain poured over it.

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