A karstic cave near Pekiin in the Galilee was used for burials in the Chalcolithic period (4th millennium BCE). The cave contains a large number of clay ossuaries (chests for storing human bones) with painted decorations, several of them representing human faces. They attest to a highly artistic society and provide evidence of the burial customs and the spiritual life of the Chalcolithic people.
A unique Hellenistic measuring table, carved from a soft limestone block, was found in the remains of a second century shop. The tables front is decorated with lions heads and four funnels of unequal size are carved into its top; the capacity of each funnel is inscribed in Greek around the rim. A Greek inscription above the lions heads reads: Year 170 (of the Seleucid era = 143 BCE), agoranomoi (market inspectors), Antipatros son of [...]doros and Aristodomos son of Ariston[...]
The table was probably part of the official equipment used by inspectors to check the measuring tools for liquids, such as wine and oil, of the merchants of Maresha.
The Earliest Synagogue of the Second Temple Period Near Jericho
Synagogues, serving as social and religious centers, probably in coordination with the priestly establishment of the Temple in Jerusalem, are known to have existed in the first century CE. Now a synagogue has been uncovered within the complex of the winter palace near Jericho, built between 75 - 50 BCE by a king of the Hasmonean dynasty. The synagogue is a building ca. 28 x 20 m. in size which consists of several rooms, a mikveh (ritual bath) and a small courtyard, in addition to the 16.5 x 11.5 m. synagogue hall. This rectangular main hall was surrounded on all four sides by pillars and colonnades, on a floor 50 cm. higher than that of the nave (the central hall), creating a bench in between the pillars all around the synagogue. About 70 persons could sit on this built bench; more could be seated on higher, wooden benches behind it.
The entrance is on the eastern side, from a small courtyard, with three or four steps leading down to the floor of the hall. The synagogue is oriented east to west, but the focal point is its center, where the reading of the Torah probably took place. There is a small niche in the northeastern corner; it is assumed that it held a cupboard for storing the Torah scrolls. A small room (6.5 x 4.0 m.) was added on the western side, open along the common wall; it contained a U-shaped, broad bench.
This synagogue, the earliest known of the Second Temple period, was destroyed together with the entire Hasmonean palace in the earthquake of 31 BCE. Upon its ruins, King Herod built his own winter palace.