In ancient times, the city of Dura-Europos, located on the Euphrates River in modern-day Syria, was an important stop for Mesopotamian Jewish pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem. Thus this Roman frontier city was home to a magnificent 3rd-century synagogue, most of which is now preserved in a museum in Damascus. The archaeologists who discovered it, fortunately, brought a careful catalogue of their findings back to the U.S. Lawrence Schiffman describes this lost place of prayer:
The shul contains a forecourt and prayer area with painted walls depicting various figures and events from Tanakh. The last phase of construction was dated by an Aramaic inscription to 244 CE, making it one of the oldest shuls in the world. It is unique among the many ancient shuls that have emerged from archaeological excavations in that the structure was preserved virtually intact.
All four walls were covered with exquisitely beautiful wall paintings in tempera, a permanent, fast-drying painting medium made of colored pigments mixed with a glutinous material such as egg yolk. These paintings were rich in content, drawn from Tanakh and from what then was a body of still orally passed-down tradition.
The illustrations of this shul were arranged in three horizontal layers to enable inclusion of many scenes. Here are a few examples of some of these: the Exodus and crossing of the Red Sea, Solomon receiving the Queen of Sheba, Hannah and [her son the judge and prophet] Samuel, the Ark in the hands of the Philistines, Jerusalem and the First Temple, the Tabernacle and the kohanim, and several scenes pertaining to Elijah, Mordecai and Esther, Ezekiel, and the fall of Babylon. Scholarly books and articles are full of debate about which interpretations of Tanakh underlie the details of these illustrations.