(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) A 1,500-year-old marble slab found on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee on Wednesday provides the first real proof of ancient Jewish settlement in the area, archaeologists said. The large slab, which bears an Aramaic inscription in Hebrew script, was dug up on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee as part of an ongoing excavation in the ancient town of Kursi.
Experts say the slab probably dates to around 500 C.E., when the Hebrew alphabet was used by Jews and some local Christian communities. This suggest that Kursi was either a Jewish community or a mixed Christian-Jewish settlement. Researchers could only discern two words: “Amen” and “Marmaria,” the latter possibly referring to Jesus’s mother, Mary.
Professor Michal Artzi, an archaeologist from the University of Haifa and one of the supervisors of the excavation efforts, said that while it had been assumed that Jews had inhabited Kursi, Wednesday’s find provides the first proof.
“It is a rarity to discover proof of a Jewish presence on the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee. Up to now, we had nothing proving that Jews settled on the lake’s shores during that era, other than in the town of Migdal,” Artzi said.
Kursi is associated with the town of Garasenes or Gadarenes, where according to the New Testament, Jesus performed the Miracle of the Swine, in which he exorcised evil spirits from a man and cast them into a herd of wild pigs, which then rushed into the lake and drowned.
The excavation is being run under the auspices of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, with the support of the Avery-Tsui Foundation.