In the heart of the Lower Galilee, 5 kilometers west of Nazareth, lie the remains of Sepphoris, capital of the Galilee for long periods in antiquity. The city was originally built on a hill rising 289 meters above sea level and overlooking the entire area. Excavations were conducted in the city over the last three decades, mainly by the Hebrew University team working at the site since 1990 under the direction of Zeev Weiss.
Sepphoris in the first centuries BCE and CE stretched across its hill and slopes, when the city had a rural appearance lacking most of the typical Roman-style public buildings. The newly acquired status of Sepphoris as a Roman polis and its subsequent urban transformation, replete with civic institutions, changed the face of this Galilean city after the Great Revolt against Rome and the ensuing eras. Owing to its newfound wealth and prosperous economy, Sepphoris grew significantly and its population reached a peak of 15 to 20 thousand inhabitants. Excavations conducted on the plateau east of the hill indicate that by the end of the first or early second century the city had expanded eastward, boasting an impressive street network arranged in a grid, with a colonnaded cardo and decumanus intersecting at its center. Designed according to Roman guidelines, public buildings and private dwellings sprung up throughout the city, including a temple, forum, bathhouses, a theater, a library or archive, and another building that may be identified as a basilica.
Over 70 mosaics uncovered to date in both public and private buildings and dating from the third to fifth centuries CE include rich and varied iconographic depictions, which rank the city as one of the important mosaic centers of the Roman and Byzantine East. These discoveries have made a significant contribution to the understanding of mosaic art and its development in ancient Palestine.
Various articles and several books devoted to Sepphoris’s urban planning, public and private building, mosaics, and other finds discovered at the site by our expedition have been published over the years.