Ancient Mosaic Depicting Fiery Bible Story Discovered

A glittering mosaic of colored stones once decorated an ancient synagogue floor with scenes of the Biblical hero Samson getting revenge on the Philistines.

This newly excavated discovery in the ancient Jewish village of Huqoq not only depicts an unusual scene — Samson tying torches to foxes’ tails in order to burn his enemies’ crops — it’s also remarkably high-quality, said dig archaeologist Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

In a mosaic, “the smaller the cubes, the finer the work,” Magness told LiveScience. “Our cubes are very small and fine.”

The mosaic decorates part of a synagogue dating back to about A.D. 400 to 500. So far, Magness and her team have excavated only part of the eastern wall of the structure, so they don’t yet know how big the synagogue was. But the building appears to be made of large, “beautifully cut” blocks of stone, Magness said, suggesting an expansive structure. [Gallery: Ancient Israeli Treasures]

The mosaic, which is incomplete, depicts several scenes. In one, two female faces flank a Hebrew inscription about rewards for people who perform good deeds. In the other, Samson, of the biblical story Samson and Delilah, ties torches to pairs of foxes, an event described in the Book of Judges in both the Christian and Hebrew Bibles. As the story goes, Samson falls in love with a woman of Philistine origin, a people who ruled the city-states of Gaza, Askelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath in the ancient Middle East. The Philistines are depicted as enemies of the Israelis in the Bible.

A female face depicted in mosaic on an ancient Jewish synagoge. Archaeologists uncovered this high-quality artwork in June 2012.

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