Working at a fifth-century C.E. synagogue in Israel’s Lower Galilee this summer, excavators uncovered fascinating Huqoq mosaics displaying two well-known Biblical stories. Archaeologists have been unearthing extraordinary mosaics at the site of Huqoq, an ancient Jewish village, since 2012.
While excavating the nave of the Late Roman synagogue during the 2016 season, the archaeologists discovered a mosaic depicting Noah’s ark (Genesis 6:19–20): pairs of animals, including donkeys, elephants, leopards and snakes, entering the enormous boat before the great flood.
Next, the excavators found a mosaic showing a scene from the Israelite Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 14:26): Egyptian soldiers gripping their shields and spears while the fish-filled waters of the Red Sea descend on them, their horses and their chariots.
“These scenes are very rare in ancient synagogues,” said Jodi Magness, Huqoq dig director and the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The only other examples that have been found are at Gerasa/Jerash in Jordan and Mopsuestia/Misis in Turkey (Noah’s Ark), and at Khirbet Wadi Hamam in Israel and Dura Europos in Syria (the parting of the Red Sea).”
In past seasons at Huqoq, mosaics of Samson (Judges 15:4; 16:3), a Hebrew inscription and a meeting of men accompanied by soldiers and war elephants were uncovered in the eastern aisle of the synagogue.
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Read more about the Huqoq excavations in Bible History Daily:
A Samson Mosaic from Huqoq: A Bible History Daily introduction to the Huqoq excavations.
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: Huqoq excavation director Jodi Magness and mosaics specialist Karen Britt discuss a new mosaic discovered during the 2014 excavation season. Could the mosaic be a depiction of the legendary meeting between Alexander the Great and the Jewish high priest?
Jodi Magness Reflects on a Lucky Discovery: In her Archaeological Views column “A Lucky Discovery Complicates Life” in the March/April 2015 issue of BAR, Jodi Magness reflects on the consequences of discovering stunning mosaics at Huqoq.
Huqoq 2015: New Mosaics Unearthed at Huqoq Synagogue: The Huqoq Excavation Project has uncovered more stunning mosaics during the 2015 excavations in a fifth-century C.E. synagogue in the Galilee.
Which finds made our top 10 Biblical archaeology discoveries of 2016? Find out >>