Cleaning one of the Aramaic inscriptions.
Cleaning one of the Aramaic inscriptions.Miki Peleg Courtesy of Antiquities Authority

Three 1,700-year-old stone burial inscriptions were found recently during an excavation in the Galilean town of Tzippori.

The discovery came after a local resident reported some information regarding stone findings to the Archaeological institute of the Galilee which is part of Kinneret College. The college together with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) conducted a dig and uncovered the inscriptions, which are written in Aramaic and Greek.

Two of the burial inscriptions, which appear in Aramaic, list the names of Jews who are buried in the western burial grounds outside the city.

Dr. Motti Aviam of the Kinneret College for Galilean Archaeology told reporters that “the importance of the inscriptions is that they depict the day-to-day lives of the Jews of Tzippori and their culture from 1,700 years ago. Scholars disagree with the meaning of the word 'rabbi' during the time period of Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi and the eras of the Mishna and Talmud during which the city was flourishing, with rabbis learning in the schools in the city.”

“One of the more surprising elements of these inscriptions, is that one of the people buried here is called 'the Tiberian,' hailing from Tiberias. This is already the second such sighting we’ve had of someone from TIberias being buried here. It shows us how much people from other parts of the Galilee wanted to be buried here due to the important work that Rabbi Yehuda was doing here, and how important the location was to Jews of that time.”

So far 17 burial inscriptions have been found at Tzippori, most of them were written in Aramaic which was the spoken language of the day. Interestingly the second capital of the Galilee at the time, Tiberias, had most of its burial inscriptions written in Greek.  

Tzippori was the first capital of the Galilee under the Hasmonean reign and continued to be so until the establishment of Tiberias in the first century BCE. Tzippori then again rose to importance during the period of Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, who is credited with the compiling of the Mishna. Attracted by the city’s prominence, Roman culture began to flourish in the city during the second and third centuries CE.

These new burial inscriptions will be studied by scholars of both the college and the IAA before being published for the general public.