Ancient synagogue and mosaic unearthed in Galilee

Huqoq discovery dates back 1,500 years; artwork depicts biblical story of Samson

Huqoq mosaic with female face and inscription  (photo credit: Jim Haberman/IAA)
Huqoq mosaic with female face and inscription (photo credit: Jim Haberman/IAA)

The remains of an ancient synagogue with a striking mosaic floor have been uncovered in northern Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Monday.

The synagogue was uncovered in a dig that ended last week north-west of the Sea of Galilee at the ruins of the town of Huqoq, next to a modern-day kibbutz with the same name. The synagogue dates to between the 4th and 6th centuries C.E., according to the Antiquities Authority. At the time, Jewish life in the land of Israel was largely centered in the north.

The mosaic includes depictions of the heads of women, a portrayal of the biblical hero Samson and two foxes with burning torches tied to their tails — a detail from the Samson story in the Book of Judges — and a damaged Hebrew inscription urging congregants to perform good deeds.

The dig was led by Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina, along with Antiquities Authority archaeologists.

The mosaics at the synagogue display “high artistic quality,” Magness said in the Antiquities Authority announcement Monday.

“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,” she said.

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.

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