Female Skeleton Casts Light on Ancient Earthquake

Archaeologists say temblor flattened Hippos in 363AD
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2014 3:28 PM CDT
Diggers: Ancient Quake Leveled Sea-of-Galilee City
Ruins of the Byzantine cathedral at Hippos.   (Wikimedia Commons)

Archaeologists investigating the remains of an ancient city overlooking the Sea of Galilee say they've found the best evidence yet of a devastating earthquake—one of two that leveled the Greco-Roman municipality, the Jerusalem Post reports. The University of Haifa researchers, who have been excavating Hippos for 15 years, said today that they found a dove-shaped pendant and a woman's skeleton under the remains of a roof. They also dug up ancient artillery balls for a huge catapult and a statue's marble leg. "Finally the findings are coming together to form a clear historical-archaeological picture," says chief excavator Michael Eisenberg.

They also found evidence that the first Hippos quake, in 363 AD, razed the city, which residents spent 20 years rebuilding. A second temblor in 749 AD destroyed the city for good. But not all the evidence is clear—like the marble leg from a sculpture in the Roman baths: "It could be a god or athlete whose sculpture was over two meters tall," says Eisenberg. Despite looking like "an old photograph come to life" with its volcanic, gray stone and main street still intact, Hippos draws few tourists these days, the Jewish Exponent reports. But Israel plans to spend $35 million to turn Hippos and other second-tier historic sites into area attractions "for interpretation, mostly from a Jewish point of view," says a government archaeologist. (More archaeology stories.)

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