Jodi Magness Reflects on a Lucky Discovery in Huqoq, Israel

Huqoq excavation unearths stunning mosaics


Jodi Magness explores the ramifications of making a lucky discovery in Huqoq, Israel, in the March/April 2015 issue of BAR.

Jodi Magness is an archaeology superstar who has published on excavations in Jerusalem, Qumran and Masada. But now she finds her professional identity consumed by her work in Huqoq, Israel. In 2012, Magness’s team on the Huqoq excavation uncovered stunningly preserved mosaics in a fifth-century C.E. (late Roman) synagogue. This one-of-a-kind find has completely changed Magness’s life for better and for worse.
“These discoveries have complicated my life in unexpected ways, some of them good, and some not-so-good,” reflects Huqoq excavation director Jodi Magness in her Archaeological Views column “A Lucky Discovery Complicates Life” in the March/April 2015 issue of BAR.
“On the good side: The mosaics are truly spectacular and exciting and have attracted much media attention and interest. On the not-so-good side: The excavations have become a much longer-term project than I originally planned, and the cost of uncovering and conserving the mosaics has far exceeded our original budget, so that I must scramble to find new sources of funding each season.”

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Uncovered by the Huqoq excavation—led by Jodi Magness—in the late Roman synagogue, this stunning mosaic of an elephant is part of an intricately laid mosaic floor that contains many images, some of which have yet to be excavated and revealed to the public. Photo: Jim Haberman.

With the intense media interests comes a whole set of concerns that many digs do not have to face. For example, finding ways to control the images of the mosaics and their publication became an issue. Some scholars advised Magness not to release any images until she had a chance to publish the excavation reports (something that often happens long after an excavation has concluded). On the other side, the media was clamoring for more and more photos, and even the Huqoq excavation volunteers had to be asked to refrain from taking pictures or sharing information. Jodi Magness settled on a compromise and agreed to release some photos, taken by the official Huqoq excavation photographer, at the end of each season.
Through the ups and downs of finding something truly unique in Huqoq, Israel, Jodi Magness has maintained her number one priority: to excavate according to the best methodological practices, in spite of all the media hype.
“We only get one chance to dig something up—with no possibility of reversing errors—and therefore I want to try to get it right,” explains Magness.
For more on Jodi Magness’s personal experience with the astonishing finds from Huqoq, Israel, read her Archaeological Views column “A Lucky Discovery Complicates Life” in the March/April 2015 issue of BAR.
BAS Library Members: Read the full Archaeological Views column “A Lucky Discovery Complicates Life,” by Jodi Magness in the March/April 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.


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?
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.
New Huqoq Mosaics: Noah’s Ark and Exodus Scenes
During the 2016 season at Huqoq, mosaics depicting two well-known Biblical stories were uncovered.
Huqoq 2017: Mosaics of Jonah and the Whale, the Tower of Babel and More: The 2017 excavation season at Huqoq unearthed more stunning mosaics depicting Greco-Roman and Biblical scenes, including the story of Jonah and the whale and the construction of the Tower of Babel.
Huqoq 2018: Mosaic Depicts Israelite Spies: The 2018 season revealed more Biblical mosaics, including one referencing Numbers 13:23.


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5 Responses

  1. Professor J. Carl Laney says:

    I found my way to Huqoq today. The site is located on the other side of the Kibbutz on a dirt road too rough for my car. I hiked up the hill to the site and explained that I was a professor from the US and had heard about the discoveries and was looking forward to seeing the excavations. I added that I have excavated in Israel and teach archaeology at a theological seminary. I was told that the only thing I would see at the site was the sky and was rebuked for going past “keep out” signs written in Hebrew. Sadly, Huqoq is a very unwelcoming place. I have visited many archaeological sites in Israel and have never had this kind of reception. If you are interested in this biblical site, skip the visit and “see” the site and pictures on-line.

  2. Wayland Jackson says:

    Dr. Magness, Wayland Jackson, Fresno CA. Our study group meets each Monday morning. We are now viewing “Jesus and his Jewish Influences,” and enjoying it immensely. We have viewed and discussed several of Bart Ehrman’s DVD series and are delighted to learn that you and he are on the same staff. Thank you for your scholarship and your manner of presenting your material. (I saw Ehrman this last week and it was a delight to be in his presence. Our group joked about renting a donkey and cutting some palm fronds for his arrival, but it was too far from the airport. LOL)

  3. Helen Spalding says:

    Well done!

    Publicity is one excellent way not to just get the word out, but to find the next season’s funding. I’m so glad she’s published the photos before the final report.

  4. David says:

    Jodi, as always, is doing excellent work. I appreciate her decision to release some pictures at the end of each season and look forward to seeing some of them in BAR.

  5. Kurt says:

    (Hukʹkok) [Engraved; Inscribed; Hewn Out].
    A border city of Naphtali. (Jos 19:32, 34) Whereas some consider it to be too far N and E, present-day Huqoq has been identified with ancient Hukkok. This site lies about 7 km (4.5 mi) W of the northern end of the Sea of Galilee and overlooks the fertile Plain of Gennesaret.

    Joshua 19:34 “And the boundary went back westward to Azʹnoth-taʹbor and went out from there to Hukʹkok and reached to Zebʹu·lun on the south, and to Ashʹer it reached on the west and to Judah at the Jordan toward the rising of the sun”.(Reference Bible)

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