Magness and students during the 2015 dig. Photo by Jim Haberman.

Excavations directed by UNC-Chapel Hill College of Arts and Sciences professor Jodi Magness during summer 2015 have revealed stunning new mosaics that decorated the floor of the Late Roman (fifth century) synagogue in the ancient Jewish village of Huqoq.

The Huqoq excavations, in Israel’s Lower Galilee, are co-directed by Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Work has continued each summer since 2012, when the mosaics were first discovered at the site.

A mosaic discovered in the synagogue’s east aisle in 2013 and 2014 depicts three horizontal registers (strips) containing human and animal figures, including elephants. The top register, which is the largest, shows a meeting between two men, who perhaps are intended to represent Alexander the Great and a Jewish high priest according to Magness’s findings. It was the first time a non-biblical story had been found decorating any ancient synagogue.

During this summer’s dig, Magness and her colleagues uncovered additional portions of this mosaic, as well as the rest of a mosaic adjacent to it, which is connected with a Hebrew dedicatory inscription uncovered in 2012.

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