Biblical Archaeology Review 44:6, November/December 2018

Strata: Israelite Spies in Huqoq Mosaic

Season after season, excavations at the fifth-century C.E. synagogue at Huqoq in Israel’s Lower Eastern Galilee have revealed stunning mosaics portraying Greco-Roman and Biblical scenes, including what may be a depiction of Alexander the Great meeting the Jewish high priest.a

This summer, the archaeological team uncovered yet more fascinating mosaics. In the northern aisle of the Late Roman synagogue, the team revealed a mosaic panel portraying a Biblical scene from Numbers 13:23: two men—sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan—carrying a pole with a cluster of grapes. A Hebrew inscription on the panel reads, “A pole between two.” A second panel exposed by the excavators depicts a young person leading an animal with a rope and features the inscription “a small child shall lead them”—alluding to Isaiah 11:6. At the north end of the synagogue’s east aisle, the archaeologists discovered a portion of a Hebrew inscription with the phrase “Amen selah,” or “Amen forever.”

According to dig director Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Huqoq mosaics demonstrate that—far from being aniconic (without images)—Jewish art from the Late Roman and Byzantine periods contained vivid figural depictions. This testifies to Judaism’s diversity after the fall of the Temple.

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