Sharya Fridman, Bar-Ilan University

The Territory of Susita in the Roman Period (Ph.D. diss., Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan)

My research project deals with the administrative territory of Susita during the Roman period. The study was conducted under the guidance of Prof. David Adan-Bayewitz and Prof. Haim Ben-Daviv. The goal of the work is to better understand the rural Jewish community in the southern Golan Heights mentioned in rabbinic literature as ‘the forbidden towns in the territory of Susita’ (i.e. the towns obligated by agricultural laws applicable only in the Land of Israel) and its relations with the gentile community during this period. Archaeological artifacts, collected in an extensive and systematic archaeological survey of approximately one hundred settlement sites dated to the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, and an investigation of each site in its context, as well as information from a careful study of the relevant ancient literary texts, provide the main evidence for the research.

In addition, this study examines questions regarding several aspects of settlement in the southern Golan Heights during the Roman period, with an emphasis on the rural Jewish community. Employing systematic archaeological survey, this research project seeks to identify the evidence for various ethnic groups in the entire region of Susita. The goal is to recover the history of settlement of each of these ethnic groups in the southern Golan during the Roman period, and, based on the acquaintance with settlement processes of the entire region, to try to understand the gap between the description of Jewish settlement in rabbinic literature and its manifestation in archaeological findings. The research method includes fieldwork that created an extensive database of archaeological evidence. These data were collected by means of a long archaeological survey of all the sites in the southern Golan (ca. 100) with any documented archaeological finds from one or more of the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods. The survey method conform to that of high-resolution surveys conducted in the north in recent years, which defines a statistically rigorous baseline requirement of a sample collection of at least 100 identifiable pottery sherds, that can be dated to the periods of the research project, from each site.

Analysis and classification of the ceramics will be based on the extensive research of recent decades on the pottery of these periods found in northern Israel and Transjordan. In the archaeological survey emphasis has been placed on the collection of soft limestone vessels, one of the key markers of Jewish ethnic identity in the early Roman period, and of coins, the latter in order to better achieve accurate dating of settlement periods at sites. In order to test the survey methodologically, Shovel tests (excavation of round pits ca. 2 m in diameter, depth of 20 cm, throughout the site) were also conducted at selected sites.

© April 2019

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