Israel: Archaeologists uncover extremely rare biblical mosaics in ancient synagogue

Archaeologists have been excavating the site for several seasons.IAA

Archaeologists in Israel have uncovered two mosaics that show extremely rare biblical scenes.

The two scenes were found on a dig at a Roman-era synagogue at Huquq, a site on a hill above the Sea of Galilee, north Israel. One shows Noah's ark and the other shows the parting of the Red Sea.

Excavation director Jodi Magness, from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill said: "You can see the pharaoh's soldiers with their chariots and horses drowning, and even being eaten by large fish."

Magness only knows of two other scenes of the parting of the Red Sea in ancient synagogues, according National Geographic. "One is in the wall paintings at Dura Europos [in Syria], which is a complete scene but different from ours –no fish devouring the Egyptian soldiers," she said. The other is at Wadi Hamam [in Israel], but that's very fragmentary and poorly preserved."

The same is true of the equally rare scene of Noah's Ark: Magness only knows of two others.

The dig began at the synagogue's eastern aisle where some more unusual scenes were unearthed. One impressive three-tiered mosaic showed the first ever non-biblical scene found in an ancient syngogue. It depicted the meeting of two important male figures, one of whom was ready for battle.

The excavation then re-started this season in the nave, the largest part of the synagogue where the two rare scenes were found.

"This panel is exactly as it should be," says Magness. "It's facing north, so people could see it as they entered from the south" – where the main door would normally have been located.