Archaeologists Release Pictures of the Elaborate Artwork at a 5th-Century Synagogue

Nov. 20 2018

In 2012, an excavation at the ancient city of Ḥuqoq in northern Israel turned up a 1,600-year-old synagogue decorated with intricate mosaics depicting biblical and midrashic scenes. Archaeologists are still working to uncover the images, but photographs of some of their latest discoveries have been made public and can be found at the link below. James Rogers writes:

The mosaics depict Noah’s ark, the parting of the Red Sea, Jonah and the fish, and the Tower of Babel, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Portions of the mosaics have been revealed before, but this is the first time the artifacts have been shown in their full glory. . . .

“Although the story of Jonah was popular in early Christian art, this is the first time it has been found decorating an ancient synagogue,” the excavation’s director, Jodi Magness, wrote in an email. “The Ḥuqoq version is unusual in showing three large fish swallowing Jonah, and representing the storm winds (in the upper left corner) as harpy-sirens—half-female, half-bird creatures from Greek mythology.”

Magness also notes that the panel depicting the Tower of Babel shows different construction activities around the tower, such as the quarrying of stone, woodworking, and the use of a giant pulley. The mosaic provides important evidence for ancient building techniques, she explained.

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More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, History & Ideas, Jewish art, Synagogues

A U.S. Withdrawal from Syria Would Help Russia, Iran, and Islamic State

Aug. 21 2019

Despite the president’s declaration last year that American troops would soon begin leaving Syria, about 1,000 remain. Charles Lister argues that their presence in the country serves vital U.S. interests:

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More about: Iran, ISIS, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy