Remains of Roman Period Synagogue Discovered in Galilee

Israeli archaeologists have unearthed the remains of a monumental synagogue building dating to the Late Roman period at the archaeological site of Huqoq in Galilee.

Close view of the mosaic found at the archaeological site of Huqoq in Israel (Jim Haberman)

Huqoq is an ancient Jewish village located approximately two to three miles west of Capernaum and Migdal (Magdala).

During the second season of excavations, the team discovered portions of a stunning mosaic floor decorating the interior of the synagogue building.

The mosaic, which is made of tiny colored stone cubes of the highest quality, includes a scene depicting Samson placing torches between the tails of foxes – as related in the book of Judges 15.

In another part of the mosaic, two human (apparently female) faces flank a circular medallion with a Hebrew inscription that refers to rewards for those who performgood deeds.

“This discovery is significant because only a small number of ancient (Late Roman) synagogue buildings are decorated with mosaics showing biblical scenes, and only two others have scenes with Samson (one is at another site just a couple of miles from Huqoq),” said Jodi Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Our mosaics are also important because of their high artistic quality and the tiny size of the mosaic cubes,” Prof Magness said.

“This, together with the monumental size of the stones used to construct the synagogue’s walls, suggest a high level of prosperity in this village, as the building clearly was very costly.”