Archaeologists in Huqoq, near the Sea of Galilee, have uncovered a vast complex of hiding places used by residents to prepare for the Bar Kokhba revolt against Roman rule from 132-136 AD.

The excavation revealed that as part of readying for the First Revolt in 66 AD and Bar Kokhba’s Revolt, Huqoq residents converted an ancient water cistern (dating to the Second Temple period) into an elaborate hiding place network.

Additionally, during times of danger they would break down walls and dig tunnels connecting to other cavities. Multiple twisting tunnels allowed for maneuvering through narrow underground spaces beneath homes.

This extensive subterranean system – the largest and most impressive found in Galilee – contains about eight hidden chambers, with connecting tunnels dug at 90 degree angles to thwart heavily armed Roman soldiers pursuing rebels.

Hundreds of broken clay and glass plates were also uncovered, along with an impressive ring designed to hold a precious stone (although the stone was not found) and other fascinating artifacts.

Near the top of the hill overlooking the hidden complex, an impressive Byzantine-era synagogue with unique mosaics was discovered, excavated since 2011 by a University of North Carolina expedition led by Professor Jodi Magness.

The goals of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s excavation in Huqoq, funded by the Heritage Ministry in cooperation with Zefat Academic College and KKL-JNF, are to reveal the site’s rich history while engaging youth in its discovery and eventually opening it to the public.

The hiding complex is one of the major sites being developed in Galilee to publicly portray the defensive methods used by the Jewish population during revolt eras.

As part of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s vision of connecting the public to their heritage, excavating the hiding complex as a community dig allows involving more people, according to Dr. Einat Ambar-Armon, director of the Authority’s Archaeological-Education Center in the North.

The complex offers insight into the hard times faced by Huqoq’s and Galilee’s Jewish populations, say excavation directors Uri Berger of the Authority and Professor Yinon Shivtiel of Zefat Academic College.

However, they add, the story the site tells is also an optimistic one of an ancient Jewish town that survived historical tribulations, with residents establishing a prosperous village and one of the region’s most impressive synagogues after emerging from the hideouts.


Israel Antiquities Authority

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