Israeli archeologists recently discovered an estate which belonged to a wealthy Samaritan some 1,600 years ago. The manor, which includes a rare inscription, adds to the evidence of once-extensive Samaritan settlement in the Sharon area.
As in many previous similar cases at locations across Israel, this fascinating archeological discovery occurred during excavations carried out ahead of new neighborhood construction.
“Only God help the beautiful property of Master Adios, amen” – this is the 1,600-year-old inscription found in Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) excavations at Zur Natan on the southern Sharon Plain.
The inscription in Greek is dated to the early fifth century CE, the period during which Samaritan settlement reached the height of its power and prosperity in the Sharon Plain.
Dr. Hagit Torge, director of the excavations on behalf of the IAA, said that “the inscription was discovered in an impressive winepress that was apparently part of the agricultural estate of a wealthy individual called Adios.”
“‘Master’ was an honorific given to senior members of the community and attests to the high social standing of the owners of the estate,” Torge added.
This is only the second such winepress discovered in Israel with a blessing inscription associated with the Samaritans. The first was discovered a few years ago in Apollonia near Herzliya.
The location of the winepress is near the top of Tel Zur Natan, where remains of a Samaritan synagogue were found with another inscription, and reveals Adios’ high status, Torge elaborated.
The Zur Natan Samaritan synagogue was transformed into a church in the sixth century. A nearby compound featuring large rooms and spaces for producing wine, oil and flour was previously uncovered. A Pompeian donkey mill, driven by two donkeys harnessed to a wooden frame, was found at the compound, used to grind flour. A seven-branch candelabrum was engraved into the mill.
The inscription in the winepress is additional testimony to once-extensive Samaritan settlement in the southern Sharon Plain during the Byzantine period.
The Samaritans were originally brought to the Land of Israel by the Assyrian Empire as of its policy of exiling vanquished peoples as a form of subjugation. The Samaritans first settled on and around Mount Gerizim in the heart of Samaria. Over the years the population grew and expanded to the southern Sharon Plain among other places. They maintained their special customs and traditions, which resemble Jewish traditions in many aspects.
During the Byzantine period during the 5th and 6th centuries, the Samaritans revolted against the government in an attempt to maintain their identity. After the revolts were violently suppressed, the community diminished in size and returned to the Mount Gerizim area.
A Samaritan community still lives at Mount Gerizim, as well as in the city of Holon south of Tel Aviv.