Dig unearths 4th century biblical mosaic

UNC-CHAPEL HILL (US) — A monumental synagogue building dating to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods (c. 4th-6th centuries CE) has been discovered in archaeological excavations at Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee.

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

The Hebrew inscription on this medallion describes rewards for those who perform good deeds. (Credit: Jim Haberman)

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

In another part of the mosaic, two human (apparently female) 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 (one is at another site just a couple of miles from Huqoq),” says Jodi Magness, professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Our mosaics are also important because of their high artistic quality and the tiny size of the mosaic cubes. 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.”

Also participating in the excavations are researchers from the University of Toronto, Brigham Young University, Trinity University in Texas, the University of Oklahoma, and the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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