GPS coordinates: 32.87341, 35.15154
Coordinates are only approximate
A hypothesis had been put forward that the exposed walls on the surface would have been the remains of a quadrangular building, palace or fortress from the Persian period; poor remains from Byzantine times suggested that a modest chapel had risen on these ruins. A result of the first campaign is certain that a vast church of a basilical plan rose on this part of the tell. The main walls whose elements were visible on the surface (pl. VII c) belonged to the dividing wall between the central nave and the south wing. A row of three pillars or bases of pillars was found opposite in the middle wall between the nave and the north wing: the bases are no longer made up of a monolith but of two large stones. A perpendicular wall separates the nave of chancel, in the room perpendicular to the axis of the church, to the south, and, to the north, to the exterior walls of the apse. Not a single element of the mosaic pavement of the church has been preserved, as the excavation is already at the level of the foundations. The floor would have been about 50 cm above the current level. After the destruction of the church, there was some occupation on this part of the tell. It can vee seen in the reuse, in a course of wall to the south-west of a capital sculpted with a cross (pl. VII b). The Capital had to surmount a pilaster rather than a column, because only its face is carved and it forms a very open, barely rounded arc. Or maybe this cross was at the entrance of the church above the door. Other remains survived, particularly in the south, which must no doubt be dated to this last phase of occupation.
It is to be expected that the foundations of a building plunge into old layers, and since we are here everywhere under the ground of the church and at the level of the deep foundations, the almost constant mixing of Byzantine material from the systematic destruction and Hellenistic period material is not surprising. In many places it appears to be loose material, signaling fairly large earthworks carried out by the Byzantines to place their monument. However, at least in three different places we found jar bottoms still sunk in portions of soil, an indication that the Hellenistic level outcrops.
We can make a hypothesis, which will have to be verified during the next campaign: it is possible that in several cases the Byzantines had set their walls on lines of older walls, laying on these a bed of pebbles and broken stones. As we have already pointed out, many of the stones in these foundation courses are in reality dressed stones reused from another monument.
We will only briefly describe in this preliminary report one of these older elements: it has been transferred to the plan of the church; in the central nave near the west end and a little center towards the south, it is a line of stones in an arc of a circle with a slab in the middle. The odds of these stones oscillate around 100, while those of the stones in the north and south walls of the nave have proximity are placed around 120: this is approximately the level of the ground of surface before the excavation, about twenty centimeters above a burial. It is in fact a burial (pl. VIII a) which was badly damaged, but you can still see that the body was resting on its back, legs slightly lifted, knees slightly bent. A bronze fibula 35 and a tiny stone pearl are the only objects found with the body. The fibula, possible parallels to the cemetery from the southeast at Atlit, suggest a date in the 1st century BC.
Jean Prignaud, “Première campagne de fouilles à Tell Keisan (Israël),” Revue biblique, no. 79 (1972): 235-237.
Dating centers on a single Byzantien coin:
Father André Lemaire proposes here an identification with a Porphyreon that the proximity to the Nahal Halazon would invite to locate at Tell Keisan. In this hypothesis, a coin of Justin II found near the apse would perhaps give an idea of the date on which the building would have been built. The coin is bronze with the effigy of Justin and Sophie and inscribed ANNO XI = 575 /76. [Cf. W. Wroth, Catalog of the Imperial Byzantine Coins in the British Museum, vol. I (London, 1908), p. 83, no. 99, and pl. XI, 12. This coin could well be the only Byzantine coin out of 21 that been picked up this year.
For his part, Father Bagatti formulated a fairly different perspective.
Claudian was, according to Rufus, Abbot of a monastery located in a village near Acco. Bagatti compares the church of Tell Keisan with an abbey church recently excavated by him at Qasr el-Abd. The village [at Tell Keisan] could, he thinks, to be on the western tell, while the monastery rose a little away on the eastern plateau. The monastery could be in the outbuildings to the south of the apse, or even to the south-west of the narthex where vestiges of walls still remain on the surface. The currency of Justin II could well, in the hypothesis of Fr. Bagatti, date the destruction of the church, for Justin resumed in 572 the persecution against the monophysites.
The study of the Byzantine pottery found here is not yet sufficiently advanced to allow John Landgraf, who undertook it in detail, to pronounce with confidence, but at least the idea of an usage of a fairly short duration towards the end of the sixth century would not contradict his observations.
Jean Prignaud, “Première campagne de fouilles à Tell Keisan (Israël),” Revue biblique, no. 79 (1972): 236.
The Byzantine complex is better known today. It is a church that had two distinct phases, marked by two superimposed chancels. A older chancel, discovered this year, limited to the extremities of the apse, seems to be of the most primitive type known. The one on the published plan moved to front (west), blocking the entire width of the nave and is much higher than the first. It may testify to changes in the liturgy in the time of Justin II (565-578).
The annex buildings representing two successive additions cannot form a monastery.
Translated from Jacques Briend, “Tel Kison,” Israel Exploration Journal 25 (1975): 259.
Jean Prignaud, “Première campagne de fouilles à Tell Keisan (Israël),” Revue biblique, no. 79 (1972): 227–38.
Jacques Briend, “Tel Kison,” Israel Exploration Journal 25 (1975): 258–60.
Jacques Briend, “L’Église byzantine,” Tell Keisan (1971-1976), 1980, 37–49.
- Inscribed mono-apsidal apse with a room south of the apse
- Π-shaped chancel (in second phase)
- one from the west and one from the room south of the apse
- Attached south room to the east
- Attached south hall to the west
- Protruding apse
- Entrances from the east on either side of the apse
- Π-shaped chancel
- Multiple entrances on all sides
- Ambo on the south
- Exterior chapel to the north
- Π-shaped chancel
- Inscribed mono-apsidal
- Room on both sides of the apse
- West entrance
- Ambo on south
- Baptistry in room south of the apse or in the south aisle
- Separate south chapel
- South entrances from side rooms/chapels
- Τ-shaped or bar-shaped chancel
- Tri-apsidal unusually inscribed
- Altars in the side apses
- Relics and Reliquaries
- Ambo to the north
- Baptistry outside off the atrium or the north aisle
- Marble furnishings (high status imperial association) and imported fine wares
- Decorative elements on chancel screens [specify]
- Separate north chapel
Syrian to Roman conversion
- Τ-shaped or bar-shaped chancel replacing Π-shaped chancel
- Side apses inserted into rooms adjacent to the main apse
- Separate north chapel (suppressed south chapel)
- Liturgical furniture with decorative motifs like those at St. Clemente in Rome
Close to Syrian in form due to the inscribed apse with a room to the south and the Π-shaped chancel. Assessment is supported by theory of Bagatti that the coin of Justin II comes from his persecution of monophysites (beginning in 572) and the destruction of the church at that time.
The Archaeology of Liturgy Project reflects research conducted at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem during the spring of 2023.