All uncredited photos courtesy of the author

A clue to the mysterious name of Deir Aziz was discovered when the removal of a 20th-century wall revealed part of an ornamental arch with the word “Azizo” inscribed on it in Greek letters (right). Other fragments of the inscription were later found and reconstructed by epigrapher Leah Di Segni to read, “Long live Ioudanes and also Azizo the stonedresser.” Ioudanes was probably the patron of the earlier building (confirmed as a synagogue by his Jewish name) and Azizo was the stonecutter. Dr. Di Segni also identified the number 290 in the inscription, which is probably a date referring to the construction of the earlier synagogue in the 290th year after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.—that is, 360 C.E. The inscription also helped explain why the site has been known for so long by the name Deir Aziz.