Talmud comes alive after ancient fountainhead found in Galilee

According to the Babylonian Talmud, the use of these fountainheads can be misconstrued by others as idol worship.

By Aaron Sull, World Israel News

An ancient fountainhead matching a description in the Babylonian Talmud was recently discovered in northern Israel’s Tzippori National Park, according to an Israel Nature and Parks Authority press release on Monday.

Fountainheads shaped like human faces inspired by mythological creatures were commonly used in buildings from the Hellenistic and Roman periods to spit water into a fountain from a lead pipe inserted in their mouths.

According to the Babylonian Talmud, written nearly 2,000 years ago, the use of these fountainheads can be misconstrued by others as idol worship.

“With regard to figures of human faces [partzufot] that spray water in the cities, i.e., fountains, one may not place his mouth on the mouths of the figures and drink, because he appears to be kissing the object of idol worship,” explains the section of the Talmud specifically addressing idol worship. (Tractate Avodah Zarah, p. 12a)

This ancient marble fountainhead was discovered near an ancient bathhouse by David Goren, a resident of Tzippori, who turned it over to authorities.

To the head of the Heritage Department at Nature and Parks Authority it is unsurprising that the fountainhead was discovered in Tzipori, a city that used to be the seat of the ancient Jewish court (Sanhedrin) and the place where the oral law (Mishna) was written down.

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“[Tzipori] does not cease to surprise with its archaeological findings,” said Dr. Yossi Bordovich.

“Remains of dozens of beautiful Roman and Byzantine mosaics have established Tzipori as an internationally renowned site, while in recent years additional excavations uncovered an ancient wine press for wine production, a small figurine in the shape of a bull and a water pool that may have been used by Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi,” he added.

The fountainhead will be turned over to the Israeli Antiquities Authority for further inspection and will eventually be displayed on-site in the Tzippori National Park alongside numerous other well-preserved artifacts.