Ancient Quake Revealed by Remains: Photos

A woman's gold pendant and the thigh of a statue are among the items archaeologists recovered in the ancient city of Hippos.

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The city of Hippos, as viewed from the Sussita mountain saddle ridge with its necropolis and the Sea of Galilee in the background. This is where a severe earthquake that rumbled more than 1,700 years ago. With its Greco-Roman temples, its large marketplace and colonnaded streets, Hippos would have been for Jesus the "city set upon a hill" that "cannot be hidden."

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Hippos, also called Sussita in Hebrew (both names mean "horse") became known in Roman times as one of the Decapolis, a group of ten cities in Jordan, Israel and Syria which were regarded as centers of Greek and Roman culture. Hippos was a powerful city-state, allowed to mint its own coins, which featured the emblem of a horse on one side. On this coin one can see Tyche, the city Goddess, holding the reins of a horse.

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The city was prospering and was almost entirely Christian when an earthquake violently struck its walls in 363 A.D. Evidence of the massive quake was unearthed as archaeologists found a number of skeletons crushed under a collapsed roof in the northern section of the Basilica, the largest structure in the city. Built at the end of the 1st century A.D. during the peak of Roman building in the city and the region, the basilica served as a marketplace and main seat of the judge.

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Among the bones of the people killed in the collapse, the archaeologists found the skeleton of a woman with a golden pendant in the shape of a dove.

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Under the debris of the 363 earthquake the archaeologists also found a large fragment of a Roman statue. A finely carved right leg of a muscular man leaning on a trunk is what remained. The team hopes to find additional parts in the quake debris that could help identify the statue.

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The excavation also exposed the Roman baths. Residents spent 20 years rebuilding the city after the 363 earthquake. However, it was another powerful quake, on Jan. 18, 749, that razed the city, leaving it covered by debris, never to be populated again.

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