1,700-year-old boundary stone bearing name ‘Kfar Nafah’ found in Golan Heights

October 28, 2020 by TPS
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A 1,700-year-old boundary stone, inscribed with the name “Kfar Nafah” (Nafah village) in Greek, was uncovered last month in an archaeological excavation led by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) near the Nafah IDF army base in the Golan Heights.

The inscription on the boundary stone. (Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Like many other important archeological finds in Israel, the boundary stone was chanced upon during an archaeological excavation when the Mekorot Water Company was about to install a water pipeline at Nafah.

The stone was uncovered in secondary use to cover a tomb.

According to archaeologists, it is “exciting and amazing” that the name of the place has been preserved for so many years, even when no signs of settlement continuity were found in the area.

Dr. Danny Syon of the IAA and Prof. Haim Ben-David from the Kinneret Academic College, who deciphered the inscription, explained that under the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian around 300 CE, these stones were placed as the boundaries of villages, for the purpose of collecting taxes.

This is the first boundary stone found in the center of the Golan Heights, on which appears the name of a place that has been preserved to this day. Nafah was the name of the Syrian village that existed at the site until the Six-Day War in 1967.

The researchers add that “usually, ancient names are preserved as a result of settlement continuity which preserves ancient names from generation to generation. However, at Nafah the ancient remains have not revealed such settlement continuity, and since the Byzantine period – about 1,500 years ago – and up to modern times, settlements are not known here, apart from briefly during the Mamluk period in the 13th -15th centuries CE.”

For this reason, the preservation of the name is “intriguing and astonishing. The discovery of the boundary stone inscribed with the name of a settlement has been preserved to this day, is a rare occurrence.”

The stone reinforces the possibility that names of ancient settlements were preserved for many generations, even where settlement continuity did not take place,” they added.

According to Yardenna Alexandre and Dina Avshalom-Gorni of the IAA, “the fascinating excavation at Nafah uncovered a public building from the Mamluk period, which served as a road station. This is the first public administrative building from the Mamluk period excavated in the Golan Heights.”

“The road station was built on the main road connecting the Galilee to Damascus, and probably served as a stopover and resting place for traders and government officials travelling from Safed, the capital city of Mamluk Galilee, to Damascus. Here they dined and slept, reorganized their equipment for the journey, and cared for the horses.

In the building’s courtyard, the remains of a furnace and some iron slag were found, indicating that an ironsmith may have worked here, repairing the horseshoes during the stopover.


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