July 3, 2012 — International team discovers mosaic floor in monumental synagogue near the Sea of Galilee
An international team of archeologists from Canada, Israel and the United States have discovered a stunning mosaic floor decorating the interior of a monumental synagogue dating to the Late Roman and Byzantine periods (ca. 4th to 6th centuries C.E.) in Israel.
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 – apparently female – human 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 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 project leader Jodi Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor in the department of religious studies in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (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 thesynagogue’s walls, suggest a high level of prosperity in this village, as the building clearly was very costly.”
Michael Chazan, director of the University of Toronto's Archaeology Centre added that “this discovery sets the stage for some great archaeology as the project moves forward. It is terrific that the University of Toronto is part of this effort."
Huqoq – the site of the discovery, located about 2.4 kilometres northwest of the Sea of Galilee – is an ancient Jewish village near the modern-day town of Migdal.
In addition to the partner institutions — the Israel Antiquities Authority, UNC, Brigham Young University in Utah, Trinity University in Texas, and the University of Oklahoma — the project was supported by the Centre for Jewish Studies and the Archeology Centre at the University of Toronto, as well as the Canadian Institute for Mediterranean Studies.
Excavations are scheduled to continue in the summer of 2013.
With files from UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences