Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Biblical Archaeology Review Releases New Images of Huqoq Mosaics Found in Galilee

In Israel, new mosaics from the fifth-century C.E. synagogue at Huqoq were found during the 2013 excavation season. Directed by Professor Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Huqoq Excavation Project uncovered another Samson mosaic, as well as a mosaic that might depict an apocryphal (non-Biblical) story. Descriptions and photographs of these mosaics are released in an exclusive in the September/October issue of BAR.

During excavations in 2012, a mosaic with an episode from Judges 15 where Samson ties the tails of 150 pairs of foxes together was unearthed in the Huqoq synagogue. The Samson mosaic found this season shows Samson gigantic in stature carrying the city gate of Gaza on his shoulders (Judges 16:3). Next to Samson are some men riding horses, who are meant to represent Philistines. Mosaic expert Karen Britt has suggested that the presence of two scenes from the Samson narrative in Judges indicates that the Huqoq synagogue was decorated with a Samson cycle, which would be the first ever found in Israel.

The second 2013 mosaic from Huqoq detailed in the BAR exclusive most likely portrays a scene from the Apocrypha: the Maccabean revolt, martyr and miracle traditions celebrated in the Jewish festival Hanukkah. From the synagogue’s east aisle, this mosaic is divided into three registers and pictures men with daggers, soldiers, war animals, an elder holding a scroll, young men with sheathed swords, lit oil lamps and even elephants. If this scene does indeed represent an episode from Maccabees, it would be the first apocryphal story to ever be found in an ancient synagogue.

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