The Excavation History of Shikhin


In 1988 a survey team from the University of South Florida Excavations at Sepphoris mapped the two northern hills of Shikhin and located many features of interest. The team was drawn to the site due to the thousands of pottery sherds visible at the base and on the slopes of the northern hill.

In addition to the volume of pottery found lying on the surface, evidence was found of a large number of cisterns, underground chambers, architectural fragments, and olive and grape presses. It became clear that this must have once been a thriving village.

Most importantly, the team found evidence of pottery production: they were able to locate the village’s old clay bed, and they found “clinkers,” broken parts of ceramic pots that slumped and bubbled in over-heated kilns. Those discoveries confirmed a passage in the Tosefta that mentions the quality of pots made at Shikhin.


In 2011 a team from Samford University conducted a second mapping project, expanding the survey area to include all three of Shikhin’s hilltops, the surrounding countryside, and nearby hills. 

This team relocated many features found in the 1988 survey plus additional important features. These included evidence of a large public building and milestones of the Roman road that connected Sepphoris to the highway. This team also confirmed earlier estimates of the settlement’s life span: an enlarging of the settlement in the Late Hellenistic period (2nd Century BCE), flourishing in the Early Roman period (1st Century CE), and abandonment by the end of the Late Roman period (4th Century CE).


In 2012 a team of students from Samford University, the University of South Florida, and Centre College conducted the first archaeological excavation at Shikhin.

The team dug eight squares in two fields. At the crown of the northern hill the team found remains of a building with plaster floors dating to the second century CE, and the corner of a house that probably dates to the Early Roman period.

Also unearthed were thousands of sherds from pottery that had been ruined in production and discarded. After only one season of excavation, we knew that the kilns at Shikhin were producing most known Galilean pottery forms, including oil lamps, and were doing so at a volume suggesting a surplus for trade.

Ancient Pottery
Thousands of pottery sherds.
Menorah and Lulav lamp
Menorah and Lulav lamp drawing


In 2013 we were joined by students from Kinneret Academic College to continue and expand excavations begun in 2012. The most significant information uncovered continued to be about pottery production at Shikhin. Seven lamp molds were discovered that confirm Shikhin’s potters produced lamps.

Lamp molds unearthed at Shikhin.

The remains of Shikhin’s previously unknown synagogue were also discovered this season. 

The 2011 survey team had located column fragments in a terrace wall. In 2013 we finally located the drum of a heart-shaped column, one half of a massive threshold cut from hard limestone, and what appears to be an exterior wall made of re-used stones with Herodian “bossing”.

Drawing of the massive threshold.
The heart-shaped column drum.

2014 – 2015

In both the 2014 and 2015 seasons, we continued to recover evidence of the extensive pottery and lamp production at Shikhin. We also further explored the synagogue, which in places is nearly completely robbed out, including the floor.

By the end of the 2015 season, we had uncovered about 20 stone lamp molds fragments, and our collection of unfamiliar pottery forms continued to grow.

Some data are challenging our dating of the site. Based on pottery and coins, it is clear that the site must have been abandoned before 363 CE because all evidence of robbing dates to the Late Roman period (mid 4th century CE). The absence of 3rd century coins is particularly puzzling.

Two pits located beneath the floor of the synagogue reveal that an earlier building with painted plaster walls once stood there. The earlier building was dismantled in the Early Roman period.

Remains of a pottery kiln.
Pit under the synagogue floor.

2016 – 2018

Coming soon