A Samson Mosaic from Huqoq

An Inside Look at Discovering Ancient Synagogues with Jodi Magness

Huqoq excavation director Jodi Magness proudly stands atop the eastern wall of an ancient synagogue at Huqoq. Jodi Magness and her team undertook the Huqoq excavation in the summer of 2011 to help clarify her understanding of the dating of certain types of ancient synagogues. But wonderful surprises lay in wait for the dig team at Huqoq, including a Samson mosaic published for the first time in Biblical Archaeology Review.

Archaeologist Jodi Magness has a theory about the dating of certain ancient synagogues. Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, believes that the traditional dates for so-called “Galilean-type” ancient synagogues needs to be pushed back a couple hundred years to the fourth–sixth centuries C.E. Until 2011, however she had to rely on others’ records of the excavation of ancient synagogues. She then decided that she needed to do her own synagogue excavation to get some clear answers. The Huqoq excavation was born.

Huqoq was a prosperous village in antiquity and was occupied for much of history until it was abandoned in 1948 during Israel’s War for Independence. Located near the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, just 3 miles west of Magdala and Capernaum, Huqoq is mentioned twice in the Hebrew Bible, as well as in Rabbinic literature.
 


 
Take a look at the Huqoq excavations and the Samson mosaic for yourself in the BAS Library. Read the full article “Samson in the Synagogue” by Jodi Magness in the January/February 2013 issue of BAR.
 

 
Jodi Magness and her Huqoq excavation team set out to locate the ancient synagogue amid massive heaps of stone rubble, guided only by displaced architectural fragments that likely came from a monumental building at Huqoq—the synagogue itself.

While they opened excavation trenches in search of the synagogue, Magness and her team also explored other areas of the site to get a better sense of the context and a more complete picture of Huqoq’s history.

The Samson mosaic from Huqoq shows a scene from Judges in which torches are tied to the tails of foxes.

By the end of the first season at Huqoq, Jodi Magness’s team had uncovered the eastern wall of the Huqoq synagogue. And 2012 brought another surprise when a high-quality mosaic floor was revealed inside the wall. The Huqoq mosaic consists of three sections separated by areas where the bedding is intact but without mosaics. The first section shows a Hebrew or Aramaic inscription flanked by two remarkably well-preserved female faces that University of Louisville scholar Karen Britt suggests may have been donors to the religious community. The second mosaic section runs along the synagogue wall and does not include figural decorations.

The third section of the mosaic shows a portion of the body of Samson (published for the first time in Biblical Archaeology Review) alongside foxes tied to torches and an inscription. The Samson mosaic shows Samson as a military figure with an orbiculum, similarly to a nearby depiction in a synagogue at Wadi Hamam. Depictions of Biblical scenes are rare in ancient synagogues, and Jodi Magness explores why two nearby communities chose to decorate their synagogues with Samson’s exploits. In her evaluation of this unique ancient depiction of the Samson mosaic showing the scene from Judges 15:4, Magness examines evidence from rabbinic, early Christian and local communities to show that contemporaneous opinion of Samson ranged from disreputable to messianic.
 


 
To view the Samson mosaic and to learn more about how the Huqoq excavation is shedding new light on ancient synagogues, read Jodi Magness, “Samson in the Synagogue,” in BAS Library as it appears in the January/February 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Want instant access to the story, and the closest look at the mosaics? Start a digital subscription and zoom in on the colorful illustrations from your favorite BAR stories on your iPad today!
 


 

Read more about the Huqoq excavations in Bible History Daily:

Mosaic Inscription from a Synagogue at Horvat Huqoq: Huqoq excavator David Amit provides a translation of the mosaic text between two female faces in the Huqoq synagogue.

The Huqoq Synagogue Mosaics: Huqoq mosaics specialist Karen Britt provides a detailed artistic analysis of a Huqoq mosaic featuring an inscription and two female faces.

New Huqoq Mosaics: The 2013 excavations revealed additional depictions of Samson in the Bible and a possible portrayal of a scene from the Apocrypha.

Huqoq 2014: Update from the Field: Jodi Magness and Karen Britt discuss a new mosaic discovered during the 2014 excavation season.
 


 

Posted in Artifacts and the Bible, Biblical Archaeology Sites, People in the Bible.

Tagged with , , , , .

Add Your Comments

7 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Gary says

    NorthEASTERN shore?

  2. Chris says

    The site appears to actually be located on the northwestern shore of Galilee.

  3. Michael says

    http://www.maplandia.com/israel/huqoq/

Continuing the Discussion

  1. A Samson Mosaic from Huqoq « watchmanstrumpetblast linked to this post on January 2, 2013

    [...] http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/artifacts-and-the-bible/a-samson-mosaic-… Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. By watchmanstrumpetblast, on January 2, 2013 at 9:10 p.01., under BIBLICAL ARCHAELOGY, News. No Comments Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « “We’re Gonna Look Back On This Night And Regret It!” Congressman Jim Moran [...]

  2. » The Death of Israeli Archaeologist David Amit TaborBlog linked to this post on March 24, 2013

    [...] 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review with an article by excavator Jodi Magness, see here. Huqoq was a Jewish village just a few miles west of Magdala and Capernaum, on the northwest of the [...]

  3. Jewish pagan symbols – zodiac mosaics in ancient synagogues | ŠAKTI linked to this post on January 16, 2014

    [...] Interested in mosaics and synagogue imagery? Learn more in the free Bible History Daily post “A Samson Mosaic from Huqoq: An Inside Look at Discovering Ancient Synagogues with Jodi Magness.”  [...]


Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.


Enter Your Log In Credentials

Change Password

×