New mosaics discovered in synagogue excavations in Galilee

Excavations in the Late Roman (fifth century) synagogue at Huqoq, an ancient Jewish village in Israel’s Lower Galilee, have brought to light stunning mosaics that decorated the floor.

The Huqoq excavations are directed by Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and co-directed by Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Sponsors are UNC, Brigham Young University, Trinity University in Texas, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Toronto and the University of Wyoming. Students and staff from UNC and the consortium schools are participating in the dig.

Last summer, a mosaic showing Samson and the foxes (as related in the Bible’s Judges 15:4) was discovered in the synagogue’s east aisle. This summer, another mosaic was found that shows Samson carrying the gate of Gaza on his shoulders (Judges 16:3). Adjacent to Samson are riders with horses, apparently representing Philistines.Although he is not described as such in the Hebrew Bible, Samson is depicted as a giant in both scenes, reflecting later Jewish traditions that developed about the biblical judge and hero.

Biblical scenes are not uncommon in Late Roman synagogue mosaics, but only one other ancient synagogue in Israel (at Khirbet Wadi Hamam) is decorated with a scene showing Samson.

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