Biblical Archaeology Review 10:3, May/June 1984

Synagogue Excavation Reveals Stunning Mosaic of Zodiac and Torah Ark

By Hershel Shanks

For two seasons in 1961 and 1962 (the second season lasted eight days into 1963) Moshe Dothan, then Deputy Director of the Israeli Department of Antiquities and Museums, directed the excavation of an ancient synagogue at a site known as Hammath Tiberias. Located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, just 100 yards from the water and adjacent to some ancient hot springs, the site revealed one of the most beautiful, impressive and important synagogues in ancient Palestine.a The jewel in the crown was a magnificent mosaic of unusually high artistic quality with extraordinarily varied themes and motifs; the mosaic also contained inscriptions in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.

Dothan returned to the site for two short seasons in 1964 and 1965 to clarify some stratigraphic problems. Now, more than 20 years after the main excavation, the first volume of the final report on the Hammath Tiberias synagogue has appeared.b The report covers all the finds with the exception of the uppermost stratum.

This is too long to wait. But having said that, it must be quickly added that this is a magnificent volume, worthy of the site.

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