The special ecological and economic conditions of the Kinneret region and the shores of the lake have attracted human settlement throughout its history, where the good living conditions could be exploited. Thus, relatively numerous prehistoric sites occur along on the low-water strip from contour line -209 and below, including one of the oldest fishing villages in the world—Ohalo II—the oldest archeological site on the shore of Lake Kinneret (ESI 10:4–5, 13:32; HA-ESI 111: 18*–19*; 114:20*–21*; ‘Atiqot 22:1–12; The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land 5 [Supplementary Volume] pp. 1986–1987), dating from the time of its formation as an independent fresh water lake (Segment G, Point 2; Fig. 1). Some of the most important tells in Israel from the Bronze and Iron Ages (the third until the first millennia BCE) are situated along the shore of the lake: Tel Bet Yerah, Tel ‘En Gev, Tel Hadar, Tel Bet Zeida, Tel Kinrot and Tel Raqqat. The Kinneret Trail runs through these tells or along their foot.
The biblical name of the lake, the Sea of Chinnereth (Numbers 34:11), is not related to the shape of the lake, but rather to the name of the city Chinnereth that was situated at Tel Kinrot along the northwestern side of the lake (Joshua 19:35). The Kinneret Trail runs along this tell, which has a spectacular view of the entire lake and where important archaeological excavations have been conducted (ESI 2:62–63; 4:60–62; 16:33–34; 19:15*; HA-ESI 121; The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land 5 [Supplementary Volume], pp.1684–1685).
The international pilgrimage importance of Lake Kinneret as the Sea of Galilee stems from its being the setting of Jesus’ activity and the location of important Christian sites along its shores: Kursi (behind the trail), Tel Hadar (near the trail, of secondary importance), Bethsaida (at Tel Bet Zeida at the back of the trail, or perhaps Bet Ha-Bek on the trail itself?), Capernaum (the eastern site on the trail, the western site near the trail), the Tabgha sites (next to the trail), Migdal (next to the trail), Tiberias and the Yardenit site—a baptismal site, not an archaeological one, but important for Christian tourism.
On the shores of the lake are also Jewish archaeological sites of national importance: Capernaum, where the oldest, largest and most magnificent synagogue in Israel is located; Migdal, an important Jewish city during the Second Temple period, prior to the founding of Tiberias, where the oldest synagogue in the Galilee, with one of the world’s oldest artistic menorah decorations on stone, dating to the Second Temple period, was recently discovered; and of course, Tiberias, the political and spiritual capital of the Jewish people in Israel during the period of the Talmud and the Sages (third–tenth centuries CE) and capital of the Galilee until it was conquered by Saladin on July 5, 1187. Tiberias continued to be the principal settlement on the shore of the lake in the Middle Ages. Following the War of Independence, Tiberias became a city that absorbed many new immigrants and an important center of tourism in the Galilee that combines its glorious past and its special location on the lake shore.
Another archaeological phenomenon unique to the shores of the Kinneret is the numerous anchorages and shore installations that are connected to ancient fishing, which has been associated with the Kinneret since time immemorial. The lake’s harbors and anchorages, most of which are attributed to the Second Temple period, were surveyed and studied in the past by A. Raban and M. Nun; the Kinneret Trail passes near many of them. Most of the installations are today covered with vegetation and are at risk of damage within the low-water strip that is below contour line -209.
Important sites along the Kinneret shoreline are dated to the Early Islamic period, after the Muslim conquest (seventh–eleventh centuries CE), foremost of which is Khirbat Minya where remains of a palace or a magnificent farmhouse with fabulous mosaics and one of the earliest mosques in the country are located. The site is next to the trail and near one of the planned parking lots (Segment D, Point 1; Fig. 2).
Several of the other sites located along the trail are small, but rich in antiquities, such as Tel Kursi and Kursi beach (Points 12–22 in Section A; Figs. 3–5); a built wall and a concentration of architectural elements in Section A, Point 21 may be the remains of a public building, perhaps a synagogue; Kefar Aqavya on Kinar beach (Points 27–36 in Section A) and Giv‘at Mase‘udiya (Site 1 in Section B; Fig. 6). A few of these sites were discovered in this survey, such as Site 4 in Section D (see Fig. 2); it had disappeared from sight since it was first marked on the Survey of Western Palestine map in the nineteenth century CE, or sites that were recently discovered in archaeological activity, on behalf of the IAA, in the wake of development plans, such as the Shahaf beach (Section F, between Points 14 and 15; Fig. 7; HA-ESI 121).
The multitude of sites along the trail within the built-up precincts of Tiberias and along the city’s beaches should also be mentioned, among them a section of the shoreline rich in antiquities, between the municipal beach and Holiday-Inn beach, where the Well of Miriam, based on an identification by Ha-Ari-Hakadosh (Rabbi Izhaq Lurieh Ashkenazi; Section E, Points 9–13; Figs. 8, 9)