Fragments of brightly-painted Roman frescoes have been discovered in Zippori National Park in Israel by a team from the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The site, also known as Sepphoris and Tzippori, was an urban center in the Galilee from the Roman through the Byzantine periods. The Jerusalem Post reported this week that the images on the fragments feature animal figures including a lion’s head, a bull’s head, a bird, and a tiger’s tail, as well as floral and geometric patterns.

The paintings are thought to have been on the interior walls of a public building from the second century. The center of the building featured a stone-paved courtyard, side portico, and bases of columnar supports. Underground vaults that served as water cisterns were found to the west and north of the courtyard. During the first and second centuries Jewish temples sometimes adopted Roman architectural and decorative motifs, though figurative images of animals were uncommon in buildings used for religious purposes.

Fresco showing a tiger’s tail found in Zippori, c. 100. Photo: Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Fresco of a bull’s head found in Zippori, c. 100. Photo: Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Roman Fresco at Ein Yael, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Fragment of Roman fresco of a goat. Photo: The British Museum, London.

Fresco of a decorative pattern found in Zippori, c. 100. Photo: Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Further Reading: Jarrett A. Lobell. “Saving the Villa of the Mysteries: Beneath the Surface of Pompeii’s Most Famous House.” Archaeology, 10 February 2014.

Umberto Pappalardo. The Splendor of Roman Wall Painting.  Los angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2009.

Marcel Simon. Verus Israel: A Study of the Relations Between Christians and Jews in the Roman Empire.  Oxford: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1996.

Posted by Jean Marie Carey

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