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Tel Anafa, Israel

1968–1973, 1978–1986


1968–1973: Saul S. Weinberg, University of Missouri

1978–1986: Sharon C. Herbert, University of Michigan

View of Tel Anafa, surrounded by cotton fields of Kibbutz Shamir.

Tel Anafa lies at the foot of the Golan Heights in the Upper Galilee of modern Israel, in sight of both the Lebanese and Syrian borders. Ten seasons of excavation by teams from the Kelsey Museum and the University of Missouri Museum of Art and Archaeology revealed remains of a rich and remarkably well-preserved Hellenistic settlement, as well as evidence for almost continuous occupation at the site from the Early Bronze Age through the early Roman period. Study of this evidence allows us to begin to unravel the complex tapestry of changing lifeways in this volatile part of the ancient Middle East and to shed light on the workings of the social and economic networks in which the inhabitants of the tel and their neighbors participated.

Remains from the late Hellenistic era (150–75 BCE) have proven most informative. During those years the site appears to have served as the country estate of affluent citizens from nearby Tyre. These wealthy residents decorated their palatial villa in the latest Greek style and furnished it with all available luxuries, including fine tablewares and thousands of expensive glass drinking vessels. True to their Phoenician heritage, they paid particular attention to comfortable private bathing facilities within the house. The richness of the finds, coupled with the clear chronological context and careful recording techniques employed by the excavators, have made Tel Anafa extremely valuable to all those interested in the Hellenistic world. Indeed, for many bodies of Hellenistic material, Tel Anafa serves as a typological and chronological “type site,” presenting a broader and more closely dated range of ceramic forms than ever before possible.

Beyond typology and chronology, issues of the extent of cultural and ethnic diversity within the Hellenistic world can be addressed through the study of the remains from Tel Anafa. The years of the site’s greatest prosperity (125–75 BCE) were those when the Greek-dominated Seleucid Empire was crumbling. For the brief time until Roman armies reestablished foreign domination of the Levant, Graeco-Phoenician citizens of nearby Tyre and Sidon controlled the area and profited greatly from the established Seleucid trade networks. The late Hellenistic settlement at Tel Anafa was a product of this Graeco-Phoenician environment, with a complex interplay between these two elements. Accidents of archaeological preservation and modern political realities make it one of the very few such sites accessible for excavation. Tel Anafa offers, then, a rare opportunity to study Greek culture in direct contact with Phoenician. The archaeological contribution to our understanding of this phenomenon is particularly important since the written sources are almost exclusively Greek, and it is only in the archaeological record that the Phoenician elements receive “equal billing.” The evidence from Tel Anafa will enhance understanding of both the “Classical” and “Oriental” components of Hellenistic civilization, underlining the diversity of Western society’s heritage from the ancient world.