Huqoq synagogue mosaics
Date: Fifth century
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): Israel
Description: A fifth-century synagogue excavated at Huqoq (west of the Sea of Galilee) since 2011 has yielded an exceptional mosaic floor. Unlike other early medieval synagogue pavements in Israel and elsewhere, this one contains numerous narrative scenes drawn in part from the Hebrew Bible. These scenes, some with Hebrew inscriptions, include Noah's Ark; construction of the Tower of Babel; the parting of the Red Sea; the Hebrew spies sent by Moses into Canaan; the heroines Deborah and Jael defeating the Canaanite general Sisera; Samson tying torches to the tails of foxes, then setting them loose to destroy the Philistines' crops; Samson holding aloft the gates of Gaza; and Jonah being swallowed by three increasingly large fish. Other unprecedented images show what some scholars think may be a historical rather than a biblical scene; it includes a war elephant. A Hebrew inscription confers blessings on those "who adhere to the commandments." It is likely that all the scenes, even those now difficult to identify, reinforced their viewers' Jewish identity and reminded them of continuous divine support.
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 2
Repository and Online Resources: • See the website of the Huqoq Excavation Project here.
Image Credits: © Jim Haberman; used by permission of Professor Jodi Magness, UNC-Chapel Hill
Tags: Jewish, Late Antique , Mediterranean, Western Asian, Access to the sacred, Connections to the past, Status and identity, Animals, Bible, Women, Hebrew