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Archaeological dig in Galilee uncovers mosaics of Samson and

Tiger chasing ibex decorative border panel in the Huqoq synagogue mosaic. Photo by Jim Haberman

commemorative inscriptions


The 11th and final season of excavations in the 1,600-year-old synagogue at Huqoq reveals a panel with an inscription commemorating the donors who funded the mosaic or the artists who made it. An additional panel featuring a dead Philistine horseman and soldier continues the story of Samson first discovered in 2012 and 2013.


A team of specialists and students led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor Jodi Magness has uncovered a spectacular mosaic panel in the late Roman (ca. 400 C.E.) synagogue at Huqoq, an ancient Jewish village in Israel’s Lower Galilee. The panel, which identifies the mosaic donors or artists, decorates the floor just inside the main entrance.

Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor of religious studies in Carolina’s College of Arts and Sciences, along with Assistant Director Dennis Mizzi of the University of Malta, focused this 11th and final season of the Huqoq excavations on the south end of the synagogue’s main hall, or nave.

Detail of dead Philistine soldier in the Samon carrying the gate of Gaza mosaic. Photo byJim Haberman

The newly discovered mosaic consists of a large panel, in the center of which is an enigmatic Hebrew inscription framed within a wreath. To the sides and below the wreath, an Aramaic inscription lists the names either of the donors who provided funding for the synagogue’s mosaics or the artists who made them, asking that they be remembered for good. The wreath is flanked on either side by lions resting their forepaws on bulls’ heads. The entire panel is surrounded by a decorated border showing animals of prey pursuing other animals.

This summer’s excavations also exposed additional sections of mosaic panels that were discovered in 2012 and 2013, which depict the episodes of Samson and the foxes as mentioned in Judges 15:4 and Samson carrying the gate of Gaza on his shoulders referenced in Judges 16:3.

The newly exposed sections include a Philistine horseman and a dead Philistine soldier with a striking classic face.

Financial support for the 2023 season was provided by the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Below are some of the students that received support from the Center to participate in the summer 2023 Huqoq dig season. Congrats on a successful summer!

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