A Late Roman (fifth century) synagogue is being excavated at Huqoq a few miles northwest of the Sea of Galilee under the direction of Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina and Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The University of North Carolina News reports on the discovery here.
Last summer, a mosaic showing Samson and the foxes (as related in the Bible’s Judges 15:4) was discovered in the synagogue’s east aisle. This summer, another mosaic was found that shows Samson carrying the gate of Gaza on his shoulders (Judges 16:3). Adjacent to Samson are riders with horses, apparently representing Philistines.Although he is not described as such in the Hebrew Bible, Samson is depicted as a giant in both scenes, reflecting later Jewish traditions that developed about the biblical judge and hero.
Mosaic showing Samson carrying the gate of Gaza. Discovered at Huqoq. Photo by Jim Haberman, University of North Carolina.
The book of Judges records the visit of Samson to Gaza, one of the cities of the Philistines. Samson’s conduct is not exemplary. When the Gazites laid a plan to kill him, he carries out his own plan.
But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron. (Judges 16:3 ESV)
The mosaics from Huqoq illustrate that the members of the synagogue there knew the exploits of Samson.
A fantastic ancient floor found in the Negev is just the latest in a series of discoveries throughout the country.
The spectacular mosaic floor found in the Negev near Kibbutz Beit Kama is just the latest magnificent tiling discovery of ancient times in Israel.
There are dozens of these marvelous, meticulous creations, some almost 16 centuries old. Most of the mosaics were installed in ancient churches and synagogues. They tell Bible stories, extolled donors, beautified the experience of faith and even educated people.
The mosaics brim with human and animal figures…
When the first synagogue mosaic in the country was discovered (now on display at Beit Alpha National Park) in the 1920s, scholars were amazed to discover that it was full of human and animal images – ostensibly prohibited by the Second Commandment. But scholars now tell us that Jewish thought of the day allowed such depictions – as long as they were not going to be worshipped. Also, these images are part of a tradition stretching across the region in the Byzantine period, which spanned the fourth–seventh centuries.
You can arrange an entire tour of Israel centered on nothing but the mosaics. Here to help you out are ten of the best ever discovered in Israel…
Check them out here. There are photos and this video too:
Monumental synagogue building discovered in excavations in Galilee:
A monumental synagogue building dating to the Late Roman period (ca. 4th-5th centuries C.E.) has been discovered in archaeological excavations at Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee.
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 Capernaum and Migdal (Magdala). Thissecond 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 of the highest quality, 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 human (apparently female) faces flank a circular medallion with a Hebrew inscription that refersto rewards for those who performgood 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),” 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.”
Excavations are scheduled to continue in summer 2013.
The Biblical Archaeology Society reports:
Despite the great deal of fanfare surrounding its discovery, the third century C.E. Christian prayer hall discovered at Megiddo looks like anything but an archaeological tourist site. Likely the oldest church ever found in the Holy Land, it is located under the Megiddo prison, leading the spectacular discovery to be covered up again until the site can be developed properly. Plans have been made to relocate the prison just over a mile to the west, but the construction of a tourist site around the church has not yet begun. An international tender seeking out an investor to construct and manage the tourist site is expected this week, and will serve as a major step in making the site available to the public. Project manager Gad Yaakov expects 500,000 tourists to visit the site in the first year alone, and expects the numbers to rise over the following years. Bids on developing the site for tourists must be submitted by June 5.
The structure featured mosaics with Christian symbols such as fish and a dedicatory inscription “to God Jesus Christ.” Dated to around 230 C.E., the find was considered important enough to Israel President Moshe Katsav that when he visited Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in November 2005, he took pictures of the newly discovered mosaic floor with him to present to the pontiff.
This mosaic from the Megiddo Prison Church is one step closer to the public eye. This week’s expected tender for development bids is a major step in creating what will surely become a major Biblical and archaeological tourist site.
Read more about the tender for development.
The largest mosaic discovered to date in Turkey has been unearthed in the ancient city of Antioch. The mosaic measures 9,150 square feet (850 sq m) and will be preserved within the hotel being constructed on the site. Antioch, located in southeastern Turkey today, was the home of a significant first-century church that sent Paul out on his three missionary journeys (cf. Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3).
The construction of the hotel is still continuing under the protection and controls of museum officials, said Yastı. The officials constantly control the drilling process and preserve the new artifacts unearthed, she added. The 850-square-meter mosaic is not damaged and in very good condition, she said, adding that it is the first time a mosaic like this has been unearthed in Turkey.
There was also a 3,000-square-meter marble floor discovered during the drilling process, she said, adding that the construction process never damaged the artifacts.
Businessman Necmi Asfuroğlu who owns the construction project said they did not want to damage the artifacts discovered during construction. There will be a 17,000-square-meter museum to exhibit those artifacts, he added. The hotel, on the other hand, will have 200 rooms.
The full article is here…
The article is in the latest edition of Biblical Archaeology Review:
It seems like almost everywhere archaeologists dig in the eastern Galilee these days, they are coming up with ancient synagogues.
In 2007, a third–fourth-century C.E. synagogue with beautifully decorated mosaic floors depicting Biblical episodes was discovered at the site of Khirbet Wadi Hamam outside Tiberias; just last summer, European archaeologists digging only 4 miles away, at Horvat Kur, announced that they, too, had found a synagogue, probably dating at least a century later.
Perhaps the most exciting recent synagogue discovery in Israel was in Magdala, reputedly the home of Mary Magdalene. (Was this the synagogue she regularly attended?) On the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the newly discovered Magdala synagogue, excavated by archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), is one of only seven uncovered in Israel that was in use during the first century C.E., when the Jerusalem Temple still stood. The others include Masada, Herodium and Gamla, with which BAR readers are familiar. Other possible examples have been excavated at Herodian Jericho, Qiryat Sefer and Modi’in.
During the first century C.E., Magdala was a significant fishing village with a major port on the Sea of Galilee, as revealed in recent Italian excavations led by Stefano De Luca (under the general direction of the late Michele Piccirillo). Today the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee is much lower than in ancient times and the new excavations have revealed boat portals or hookups that today are far from the shore.
The Magdala synagogue from this time is richly decorated with frescoes of colored panels. Mosaics with geometric designs covered the floor. Impressive columns supported the roof. And a strange, nearly 3-foot-long stone block found in the center of the synagogue is elaborately carved on the side and the flat top. Among other reliefs, it features one of the earliest depictions of a seven-branched menorah…
There is more here.