Dig uncovers rare biblical mosaics on synagogue floor

Archaeologists in Israel have uncovered ancient mosaic artwork on the floor of a synagogue dating back to the late-Roman period, around the fourth or fifth century C.E.

The discovery took place in late June in excavations at Huqoq, in northern Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority revealed. The site is located about a mile and a half northwest of the Sea of Galilee.

Two female faces flank a circular medallion with a Hebrew inscription in ancient mosaic. photo/jim huberman

The excavations are being conducted by Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and David Amit and Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority, under the sponsorship of UNC, Brigham Young University in Utah, Trinity University in Texas, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Toronto in Canada.

Students and staff from UNC and the consortium schools are participating in the dig.

Huqoq is an ancient Jewish village located approximately two to three miles west of Magdala. This second season of excavations has revealed portions of a stunning mosaic floor decorating the interior of the synagogue building.

The mosaic, which is made of tiny colored stone cubes, includes a scene depicting Samson placing torches between the tails of foxes (as related in the book of Judges 15).

In another part of the mosaic, two female faces faces flank a circular medallion with a Hebrew inscription that refers to rewards for those who perform good deeds.

“This discovery is significant because only a small number of ancient [late Roman] synagogue buildings are decorated with mosaics showing biblical scenes, and only two others have scenes with Samson,” said Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor in the department of religious studies in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. The other mosaics are located at another site a few miles from Huqoq.

“Our mosaics are also important because of their high artistic quality and the tiny size of the mosaic cubes,” she said. “This, together with the monumental size of the stones used to construct the synagogue’s walls, suggest a high level of prosperity in this village, as the building clearly was very costly.” — ynetnews.com