Three Panels of Mosaics Found Under Jewish Synagogue in Galilean Village

Contributed By Alexa Reimschussel, Church News staff writer

  • 25 June 2019

“We now have evidence that some communities were more open than others to the Greco-Roman world around them.” —Matthew J. Grey, excavation supervisor

In the summer of 2012, Bryan R. Bozung happened upon an amazing discovery—massive mosaics depicting biblical scenes—on the floor of an ancient Jewish synagogue in the Galilean village of Huqoq.

Bryan R. Bozung, a recent graduate of Brigham Young University at the time, could only point a trembling finger at the “variation in color and faint lines” he had uncovered from its millennium-old hiding place, he told BYU Magazine.

After Bozung alerted the team lead—Jodi Magness, an archaeologist from the University of North Carolina—Magness used a paintbrush to reveal a depiction of a woman.

“I was truly speechless,” said Bozung.

The original goal of Bozung’s research team was to uncover data to “improve Galilean synagogue dating,” BYU Magazine said. However, the project quickly changed from data retrieval to elaborate excavation.

“All of a sudden we had this precious ancient art that needed to be excavated fully,” said Matthew J. Grey, BYU ancient scripture professor and supervisor for the synagogue excavation.

Though finding an ancient mosaic is rare and though these mosaics are heavily damaged, the team has uncovered scenes “never found in an ancient synagogue in Israel,” said BYU Magazine. The six-year project led to the discoveries of biblical depictions of Samson, Jonah, Noah’s ark, and Pharaoh’s army swallowed up in the Red Sea. There are also glimpses of daily life in antiquity and a mysterious, non-biblical story.

Researchers say the Huqoq mosaics and those found at select other sites have helped to reframe the conception of ancient Jewish worship, said BYU Magazine.

“While they were still fully integrated within Jewish society,” Grey said, “We now have evidence that some communities were more open than others to the Greco-Roman world around them.”

Here are three select panels from the mosaics found in Huqoq:

The Jonah Panel

The Tower of Babel Panel

The Elephant Panel