Ancient Frescoes Discovered in Zippori

A fresco fragment found in Zippori. (G. Laron)
A fresco fragment found in Zippori. (G. Laron)

A team from the Hebrew University has discovered hundreds of fragments belonging to frescoes believed to be from the Roman period, in the Zippori National Park. The fragments, which contain figurative images, floral patterns and geometric motifs, shed light on Zippori (Sepphoris), which was an important urban center for the Jews of the Galil during ancient times.

The frescoes decorated a large building north of a colonnaded street that cut across the city from east to west. The building, whose function is not clear at this stage of excavation, spread over a wide area, and the nature of the artifacts discovered indicate that it was an important public building.

In the center of the building was a stone-paved courtyard and side portico decorated with stucco. West and north of the courtyard, several underground vaults were discovered. Some of these were used as water cisterns and were of high quality construction.

The patterns on the plaster fragments are varied and are decorated in many colors. Among them are geometric patterns (guilloche) and brightly colored wall panels. Other fragments contain floral motifs (light shaded paintings on red backgrounds or various colors on a white background).

Some of the pieces depict figures — the head of a lion, a horned animal (perhaps a bull), a bird, a tiger’s hindquarters and more — usually on a black background. At least one fragment contains a depiction of a man bearing a club.