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How a Fowl Find Is Shedding New Light on Israel's History

A new discovery near the Sea of Galilee is shedding light on a long-held question about when the area became a Jewish stronghold.The tapered head, flattened bill and graceful curve of the neck are unquestionably that of a duck. The bird’s head decorates a small, 2,200-year-old bronze incense shovel found during this summer’s dig at a Hellenistic-era site near the Sea of Galilee, and its ancient owners may be the key to an investigation into how and when ancient Judeans populated the Galilee.A Hebrew University team led by Dr. Uzi Leibner discovered the shovel amid the ruins of Khirbet el-Eika, a site just west of the Sea of Galilee near the Horns of Hattin, during August’s excavations. Leibner sought to elucidate who the inhabitants of the Galilee were in the early Second Temple period.The hills of the Galilee were densely populated with Jewish villages during the late Second Temple period and thereafter. The historical Jesus was born in the small Galilean town of Nazareth a little more than 2,000 years ago. The gospels and contemporary historical texts describe a region populated by Jews who rose up against the Roman Empire en masse in 66 CE. In the centuries thereafter it was the heartland of rabbinic scholarship, literature and Jewish life in Roman Palestine.But the Galilee apparently wasn’t always that way. Current research indicates the area was settled by non-Jewish peoples when the region was ruled by the Persian and Greek empires between the fifth and third centuries. Only at the very end of the Hellenistic period, with the rise of the Hasmonean dynasty of Maccabee fame, did it come under Jewish rule.

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