To Christians, the Galilean town of Migdal (or Magdala) is the birthplace of the New Testament figure of Mary Magdalene. It is also the location of a 1st-century synagogue, discovered twelve years ago, containing an intriguing engraved ritual object known as the Magdala stone. Recently archaeologists unearthed a second synagogue, which also predates the destruction of the Second Temple. Rossella Tercatin writes:
The first synagogue was uncovered in the Migdal in 2009, when an excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority unearthed Jewish ritual baths (mikva’ot), streets, a marketplace, and industrial facilities.
“The fact that we have found two synagogues shows that the Jews of the Second Temple period were looking for a place for religious, and perhaps also social, gatherings,” said the head of Haifa University’s Zinman Institute of archaeology, Adi Erlich.
The newly discovered synagogue was shaped as a square and built of basalt and limestone. It featured a main hall and two other rooms. The main hall was coated in white plaster and featured a stone bench along the walls, also coated in plaster. One of the smaller rooms presented a stone shelf. According to the experts it might have been used to store Torah scrolls.
“The synagogue we are excavating now is close to the residential street, whereas the one excavated in 2009 was surrounded by an industrial area,” Erlich also said. “Thus the local synagogues were constructed within the social fabric of the settlement.”