Sussita / Hippos – an ongoing archaeological excavation in the Golan Heights
TEL Sussiita, or Hippos in Greek, means the “horse” and this mountain looks like a horse’s head from different angles.
A TEL is a man-made mountain mainly achieved by building layer upon layer of new buildings over previously destroyed cities. The layers are usually compacted and as people did not have the mechanical equipment to remove the previous layer of rocks/bricks etc – they just straightened the ruins and built on top of the earlier buildings. The age of the layers (strata) are defined by pottery, coins, architecture,building techniques, writings and more. The city of Megiddo/Armageddon, for example has 24-26 layers of civilization stretching over 4000 years.
The mountain (1100 ft above the Sea of Galilee) was first explored at the end of the 19th Century. Between 1948-1967 it was a military outpost facing the Syrians. Since 2000 archaeological excavations have been going on and today it has developed into a sight worth seeing.
You will need about an hour to visit the ruins.
A word of caution – there are still actual and suspected minefields surrounding the TEL so don’t get off the main paths or excavated areas.
It is a criminal offence to do unauthorized excavations or to remove any ancient findings – so please enjoy the site with your eyes only and not your hands. If you find anything it is your onus to report it to the local rangers.
The (10 minutes) drive up the road leading from Kibbutz Ein Gev to the mountain is so so – drive carefully!
Sussita was a town that was first settled in the 3rd Century BC by the Greeks (Seleucids) as a camp for a cavalry regiment. Later it became a Greek Polis (city-state). During the Roman period it became one of the cities of the Decapolis province (see the map) and continued to flourish during the Byzantine era. The inhabitants were Jewish and Pagans and later on Christian as you will see by the many churches in the ruins.
The city was finally destroyed in the major earthquake of 749 AD/CE
The archaeological findings show Sussita to have been a rich town with Basilica buildings, a main Forum (market and town square), rich houses with indoor fountains, a Roman bath, an Odeon (small roofed theater for prose and poetry reading), paved streets and heavily fortified walls with a dry moat.
Sussita is a remarkable archaeological site and yet is virtually unknown. You will need a guide to help you see the little known places and explain them. It is quite different from other cities, for example, most of the buildings and the street paving stones are of black basalt rock and not softer white limestone. The main Roman street is a Decumanus running for a total length of about 1500 feet is like a spine across the top of the site. Usual a north/south street called a Cardo is the main street and not an east/west Decumanus.
The full description of the site is worth while reading at – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippos.
Lets take a look at some pictures and maps.
A map of the area – Sussita in the circle
The cities of the Decapolis
(from – james-a-watkins.hubpages.com)
The city plan
(This map hangs on the wall of the modern first building on the left of the street)
View from below – from the Sea of Galilee
Looking down at the mountain from the top of the Golan Heights
The eastern ramp/path
25 foot defensive wall and main gate
The Decamanus Maximus (main st east-west)
A main water pipe bringing water from the Black Falls – 18 miles away
Major underground water reservoir
The eastern basilica/church.
(See how all the pillars have collapsed in the same direction – a sure sign of destruction by earthquake)
The western church
The Forum – town square and market
The Odeon – A small roofed theater for reading poetry and singing songs
A rich man’s house
The house’s indoor fountain
Now – this is a good ending to a great day of exploration