Monday, July 2, 2012
Stunning mosaic discovered in ancient Synagogue in Northern Israel.
An archeological dig has uncovered a strikingly beautiful mosaic in the remains of an ancient synagogue in Northern Israel. The excavations in Huqoq 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
The synagogue, made of large, "beautifully cut" blocks of stone, dates from the 4th to the 6th centuries C.E., according to the Antiquities Authority, and is located in Northern Israel at the ruins of the town of Huqoq, next to a kibbutz
The mosaic shows the heads of women, a portrayal of the biblical hero Samson and two foxes with burning torches tied to their tails and includes an inscription in Hebrew, of “high artistic quality,” Magness said in the Antiquities Authority announcement Monday. A student on his first dig was scraping away dirt with a hoe when he felt the hard surface of the mosaic. He called Magness over. Brushing away dirt they saw a colorful female face staring back at them, exposed for the first time in 1,500 years.
"I think that was probably by far the most exciting moment I've had as an archaeologist in my life," Magness said.
From the MFA website:
"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)," said Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Religious Studies in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences. "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."
So far, Magness and her team have excavated only part of the eastern wall of the structure. The mosaic has been covered to protect it, and will be displayed again when the 2013 dig season begins next summer, according to the Antiquities Authority.