In January 2017, a small excavation was undertaken in the vicinity of the ancient synagogue at Merot (Permit No. A-7878; map ref. 77079/24992; Fig. 1). The excavation was carried out as part of the ‘adopt a site’ and ‘Nature Defence Force’ programs at a nearby IDF base. The excavation, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, was directed by U. Berger, with the assistance of J. Peterson (administration), A. Shapiro (GPS), Y. Alef (photography), S. Magal (aerial photography), G. Bichovsky (numismatics) and H. Tahan-Rosen (artifact drawing), as well as a team of instructors from the nearby base.
Merot (Kh. Marus) was surveyed in the second half of the nineteenth century by V. Guérin and subsequently by members of a Palestine Exploration Fund expedition, who documented ancient remains among the structures of an abandoned and ruined Arab village (Guérin 1880:451–452; Conder and Kitchener 1881:252). In the 1980s, Z. Ilan identified an ancient synagogue at the site, which, when excavated, revealed activity dating from the beginning of the Roman period to the twelfth century CE (Ilan 1983; Ilan and Damati 1986; 1987).
The current excavation took place after many years during which the site was exposed to the ravages of time and weather. It included conservation and salvaging the remains of the synagogue and its surroundings (Fig. 2). Most of the work involved removing a layer of vegetation and soil from the floor of the synagogue and from the surface of the area that had been excavated in the past. The excavation revealed on the surface around the synagogue a small quantity of pottery fragments dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods. It also unearthed a small fragment of a clay tobacco-pipe mouthpiece from the late Ottoman period (L1, B105; Fig. 3). The fragment may have been associated with the village of this period at the site, whose inhabitants were Muslims from Algeria (Abbasi 2007). The excavation also uncovered two worn coins, only one of which was identified; it was dated to the fourteenth century CE, the period of Mamluk rule (IAA 166787).
Abbasi M. 2007. From Algeria to the Holy Land: the Algerian communities in the Galilee, from Late Ottoman Period to 1948. Horizons in Geography 68–69:56–72 (Hebrew).
Conder C.R. and Kitchener H.H. 1881. The Survey of Western Palestine I: Galilee. London.
Guérin V. 1880. Description géographique, historique et archéologique de la Palestine III: Galilée II. Paris.
Ilan Z. 1983. Marus — A Fortified Village of the First Revolt on the Northern Border of Eretz-Israel. Eretz-Israel 17:141–146 (Hebrew; English summary).
Ilan Z. and Damati E. 1986. Khirbet Marus (Meroth) – 1985. ESI 4:64–68.
Ilan Z. and Damati E. 1987. The Synagogue and Bet Midrash at Ancient Merorth. Qadmoniot 79/80:87–96 (Hebrew).