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January 11, 2017 7:13 am

Ancient Roman Theater Unearthed in Northern Israel

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The newly excavated theater at Sussita in northern Israel. Photo: Dr. Michael Eisenberg/Zinman Institute of Archaeology.

The newly excavated theater at Sussita in northern Israel. Photo: Dr. Michael Eisenberg/Zinman Institute of Archaeology.

JNS.org – A large Roman theater discovered at an archaeological excavation in Israel’s northern Golan Heights region changes everything researchers say they previously knew about the ancient city of Sussita.

A team from University of Haifa found the theater outside the walls of Sussita, also known as Hippos, and believe it was mainly used for religious rites, not as an entertainment venue.

“The excavations outside the city over the past few years are falling into place like in a detective story,” said Dr. Michael Eisenberg, who is in charge of the team working at Sussita, at the annual conference Monday of the university’s Zinman Institute of Archaeology.

“First we found a mask of Pan, then the monumental gate leading to what we began to assume was a large public compound — a sanctuary,” he said. “And now, this year, we find a public bathhouse and theater in the same location, both facilities that in the Roman period could be associated with the god of medicine Asclepius or with gods of nature such as Dionysus and Pan.”

“If our hypothesis is correct, it is quite possible that thousands of visitors to the theater came not to see the latest show in town, but to take part in rituals honoring one of the gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon,” he said.

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