Following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the high rabbinic council known as the Sanhedrin relocated from Jerusalem to the Galilee, where it migrated from one place to another, spending a number of years in the village of Usha during the 1st and 2nd centuries. At the site of this village, volunteers participating in an archaeological dig recently discovered a hammer and nails dating to the 6th century, not long before Jews abandoned it altogether. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:
According to Yair Amitzur and Eyad Bisharat, co-directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “about twenty iron hammers are registered in the Israel Antiquities Authority records, only six of them from the Byzantine period,” [to which this one is dated]. Through their excavations, the archaeologists had previously discovered an extensive glass industry—from raw material to beautifully finished green-blue glass goblets—as well as wine and olive-oil production at the site.
Amitzur [added] that the iron-production center would have forged everything the community needed on a day-to-day basis, including nails and little rings. There would have been a smithy working in every village, he said, but the remains indicate that Usha’s was a very small operation.
A famous resident of Usha recorded in Jewish sources was Rabbi Yitzḥak Nafḥa. The word “Nafḥa” comes from the root “to blow,” and in rabbinic-period Hebrew can mean “blacksmith.” But Amitzur [believes] that the iron industry was not in operation during the period in which the famous rabbi lived there, and he associates the word with the extremely specialized glass industry at the site, due to the uniqueness in the quality and quantity [of glass items] found there.
The site and its ritual baths continued to be used by the local Jewish population until approximately 1,500 years ago, said Amitzur, at which time the Jews filled in the baths to invalidate them for use prior to leaving the village.