History and Archaeology of Ancient Magdala



By the Editors of the Madain Project

Magdala (المجدل), meaning tower, was an ancient city on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, 3 miles (4.8 km) north of Tiberias. In the Babylonian Talmud it is known as Magdala Nunayya (Aramaic: מגדלא נוניה, meaning "Tower of the Fishes"), and which some historical geographers think may refer to Tarichaea, literally the place of processing fish. It is believed to be the birthplace of Mary Magdalene.

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Brief History of Ancient Capernaum

Hsamonaean / Hellenistic Period
Archaeological excavations suggest that the early settlement at the site began during the Hellenistic period (between the second and first centuries BCE) and ended during the late Roman period (third century CE). The ancient "Magdala Synagogue" was built around the same time as well. Modern excavations have revealed first century CE Jewish town lying just below the surface.

Herodian Period (37 - 4 BCE)
During the Herodian period, ancient Magdala most likely formed part of Herod Antipas's domain, who was responsible for much of the development around the Sea of Galilee.

Roman Period (4 BCE - 68 CE)
During the Herodian period, ancient Magdala most likely formed part of Herod Antipas's domain, who was responsible for much of the development around the Sea of Galilee.

Destruction During the First Roman-Jewish War
The ancient city of magdala was destroyed by the Romans during the First Jewish-Roman War around 68 CE.

Byzantine Era (313 - 636 CE)
During the Byzantine period the ancient fishing village remained a small backwater of the Roman empire. During the Byzantine and the subsequent Muslim period, the inhabited town had moved a bit to the north.

Muslim Period (636 - 1948 CE)
During the Muslim period the site retained its status as a small village and most of its significance still remained tied to its association with the Mary of Magdala. In 1948 CE, the small Arab village was depopulated.

Archaeology in Ancient Magdala

Featured Article Magdala Stone

The so-called "Magdala stone" was found during excavations at the site of the Magdala Synagogue, and it is considered one of the most significant discoveries from that location. The Magdala Stone is rectangular and features on the short side a seven-pronged menorah flanked with large jars and columns, on the long sides architectural carvings to give the feeling of being "inside" a Synagogue, and on the top a rosette design with six petals. his is the first menorah to be discovered in a Jewish context and that dates to the Second Temple period/beginning of the Early Roman period.


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