Migdal South, Archaeological Excavations, Universidad Anáhuac México Sur
Por la Profa. Marcela Zapata Meza, Meztli Hernández Grajales and Arfan Najjar
The present article pretends to show the first results of the extensive excavation that has taken place by the Universidad Anáhuac México Sur and the Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, in affiliation with the Israel Antiquities Authority. Marcela Zapata Meza directed the excavations, with the support of Meztli Hernández Grajales, Arfan Najjar and over 300 volunteers from different nationalities, during the 2010 (G64/2010), and 2011 (G2/2011) field seasons.
The diggings at Migdal by the Magdala Archaeological Project´s team are part of the international project “Magdala Center”. This archaeological project works with the extensive archaeology technique “…the larger the horizontal area which can be excavated, the more the evidence will be understood…trenches will almost always give partial and probably misleading answers. Compare an excavation with the dissection of a human body. A trench across the chest will give a certain amount of information about the heart and the lungs and part of the spine, but nothing at all about the brain or the kidneys, or, for that matter, the kneecaps. The only logical way to ‘excavate’ a body is to dissect it layer by layer, taking the skin from the muscles, the muscles from the skeleton and so on, eventually dissecting each organ down to the nerves and tiny blood vessels which make it up. So it is with an archaeological site. It should be dissected logically from the surface down, in the way that the site dictates, layer by layer, feature by feature, down to the smallest visible unit, and sometimes beyond…” (Barker, Philip, 1993; pp. 101); includes restoration, conservation and interpretation of every archaeological artifact found through the different seasons.
There are six main objectives to the project:
- To get to know the context and relationship between the synagogue and the city of Migdal.
- To identify and know the way of life of the people who lived in Migdal during the first century CE through the study of the activities held in their household (housing units, activity areas).
- To identify and understand behavior patterns: distribution of activities, uses and tradition, domestic rituals:
- How did different social groups lived.
- What activities are distinguished in their housing spaces.
- How many people use to live on each structure.
- To identify and understand various household rituals:
- Space dedicated to the various religious activities.
- Activities and objects.
- Rethinking of meanings and symbolism to find the connection inside the home between the ritual and daily life.
- To identify and learn about the different specializations at work.
- To identify trade routes and access to them.
Throughout these years we have concentrated in four excavation zones at the Migdal site geographically referenced on map #38 with the following coordinates: 248650-747915, 248670-748000, 248360-747950 and 248375-748010. The Zone A located at the West of the digging land; the Zone B located six meters East of the Zone A; Zone C located in the middle of the Magdala Archaeological Project, 50m away from the previous area, and the Zone D the last excavated area in the East side of the land
At the end of these two years of continual work, we have been able to determine that Migdal had, at least, five phases or occupational strata (Stratum). The information, obtained through the extensive diggings during these two seasons, suggests that the first settlement (Stratum I) was during Hellenistic times concentrating at the southeast of Migdal and in concurrence with the evidence reported by the excavations of Stefano de Luca. On the other hand, we have been able to determine that the biggest urban growth might have taken place during the first century CE and BCE (Stratum II and III) widening the settlement pattern north to south, and west to east. The archaeological strata suggests that the urban layout is established during Stratum II (which is the visible, and permanent occupational strata after the excavations taken place so far), during the posterior occupations (Stratum IV and V) there wasn’t a development per se, but the existing spaces were used by reusing and remodeling certain spaces and contexts. Once the archaeological works are extended and the different zones get to be connected, we will be able to achieve more information and data to either confirm or reject this approach.
It is important to mention that this report must be considered as preliminary, for the area has not been completely excavated. In the future, it will be necessary to widen and connect the excavation zones to get to know the limits of the buildings that made up the town of Migdal, thus getting to better understand the architectonical distribution, as well as its uses and costumes in the time-space dimension.
Zone A ZoneB Zone C Zone D
The excavations at the Magdala Archaeological Project have revealed very interesting and rich information that will undoubtedly help to a better understanding of the everyday life at the city of Migdal throughout time. It is important to keep in mind that the land has not been completely dug, and therefore, as mentioned at the beginning of this report, the information delivered through this means shall be considered as preliminary; as soon as the excavations are advanced, and we have all the information from the different structures and materials as well as the nexus between zones, data and interpretations of this report must be analyzed to review whether they are correct or not.
Part of systematical archaeology is the geophysical prospection which uses GPR, magnetic and electric detection systems to have a previous knowledge of the underground non natural anomalyties. With the results of the geophysics prospection (2010 and 2011), to have an approximate of the extension of the buildings for example at Zone A, and the continuity of in relationship with the building at Zone B.
The archaeological work taken place so far has revealed that Migdal started during the Hellenistic period with its main settlement at the east of the city, around Zone C and the Sea of Galilee; towards the port zone (Zone D). Before the year 68 BCE it extended to the west urbanizing and following a very defined settling pattern between housing units and ritual spaces (Zone A and Zone B), having as main building the synagogue discovered at the year 2009. After the year 70 CE, for unexplainable reasons, the population of the western sector left their houses while the people gathered at the east zone (Zone C and D) continued to occupy the domestic, producing and commercial areas up until the 2nd Century CE.
As to the building system, we have observed that the walls from the housing units, open spaces, and ritual contexts were built with raw-material: For the walls of the housing units (domestic use type) they used a low quality worked stone; for the courtyards or patios, some rooms, and ritual spaces as a mikwa’ot a great quality worked basalt stone was used. This difference at the constructive system might also denote, besides different occupation phases, socio-economical levels.
The analysis of the structures with the archaeological material will give us information to confirm if the city’s grandeur was during the Second Temple period. Even though there is archaeological material from the Hellenistic and Late-Roman period.
 I want to thank in a special way Rosaura Sanz, Estíbaliz Aguayo, Erika Ibarra, Andrea Garza, Rodrigo Ortíz, Gabriela Irastorza, Gabriela Román, Elías Mata, Isabel Borrego, Lizie Rodríguez, Fernanda Oriol, Fernanda León, Juan Luis Zamacona, Paulina Díaz, Roberto Fernández, Carlos Ramírez, Martín Srâmko and Tatiana Meltsen for all their support make this project come true.
 De Luca, Stefano. 2009. La città ellenistico-romana di Magdala/Taricheae. Gli scavi del Magdala Project 2007 e 2008: relazione preliminare e prospettive di indagine Liber Annuus 59 (343-562)