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Hippos Regional Research

An Archaeological Study of the Roman Period Territorium of Hippos: Urban and Rural Settlement Relationships

Decapolis Region Map

Roman period cities and the surrounding rural areas shared a complex, codependent relationship. Although the relations between the urban and rural spheres have been the focus of research in various regions of the Roman world, they have received little attention in Judaea/Syria-Palaestina. The overall objective of this research is to study the Hippos Territorium and especially the urban–rural relationship in the southern Golan during the Roman period by studying the polis of Hippos and the rural site of Majduliyya along with selected finds from additional rural sites. The groundwork from previous research along with the promising preliminary results from the study sites, make the Hippos region a prime candidate for a case study for elucidating the urbs–territorium–oppidium/vicus relationships.

Previous research at Hippos, mainly within the city perimeter on the crest, has yielded few well-defined Roman archaeological contexts with sufficient finds for such a study. However, excavations along the saddle ridge at Hippos were conducted last two years, and have provided – for the first time – well-defined Roman period contexts that can be used as part of a broader regional study. The rural site of Majduliyya is located 14 km to the north of Hippos, on the northern border of the district. It is one of the few sites in the region that corresponds chronologically to the Roman period (ca. 50 BCE-300 CE) with little disturbance in later periods. Small-scale excavations at the site have already identified a synagogue, pottery production, olive presses and residential areas.

The proposed research, which is both site-specific and regional, will be innovative in its incorporation of a broad range of methods and goals, including further archaeological excavations at the polis of Hippos and the Majduliyya village along 

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with an array of analytical studies. These will allow us to characterize the architecture, site layout, and material culture from both an urban and a rural site in the same Territorium. The ­­­well-defined contexts from both sites (i.e. early, middle and late Roman), further provide the opportunity for a diachronic analysis which can be used as part of a broader regional study. In addition to the architectural and material culture comparisons, a chemical and petrographic study of the pottery from several sites in the region, a provenance study of basalt quarries and architectural fragments, a regional survey of raw material sources, archaeological surveys near the study sites, geo-spatial analysis of the regional topography and road network, as well as pollen analysis, will all be part of the regional research. These will be used to provide a unified and up-to-date map of Hippos Territorium during the Roman period, including settlement history, military features, roads and raw material sources, which will assist in defining the significance of the district borders, determine the extent of the centrality that Hippos played in the region and to study the socio-economic and ethnic relationships in the region. This study will also serve as a methodological model for investigating Roman Territoria and urban–rural settlement relationships in other regions. Based on preliminary results, we are confident that we have a unique opportunity to reach the important goals outlined in this proposal.

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The research is being supported by the Israel Science Foundation, grant 722/17, headed by Michael Eisenberg and Michael Osband.