In 2011, Israeli archaeologists discovered the remains of a 5th-century synagogue in the ancient Galilean village of Huqoq. In the ensuing years, they have been at work carefully excavating its elaborate mosaics, which display biblical and post-biblical scenery. The Times of Israel reports on the latest artwork to come to light:
The mosaics depict the biblical story in the book of Judges in which the prophetess Deborah told the Israelite military leader Barak to mobilize the troops of Naftali and Zebulun to fight against Canaan, whose forces were led by Sisera. Barak said he would only go to battle if Deborah joined him, and Deborah in turn prophesied that a woman would defeat Sisera’s army. Sisera, fleeing [defeat at the hands of the Israelites], sought refuge in the tent of Yael, who drove a tent peg through his head, killing him.
“This is the first depiction of this episode and the first time we’ve seen a depiction of the biblical heroines Deborah and Yael in ancient Jewish art,” [the excavation’s director Jodi] Magness said in a statement. . . . “Looking at the book of Joshua, chapter 19, we can see how the story might have had special resonance for the Jewish community at Huqoq, as it is described as taking place in the same geographical region—the territory of the tribes of Naftali and Zebulun.”
The team working at the ancient synagogue, which was built in the late 4th or early 5th century CE, also uncovered a mosaic depicting vases holding sprouting vines with four animals eating clusters of grapes: a hare, a fox, a leopard, and a wild boar.