Rare Alexander the Great Mosaic Unearthed in Ancient Synagogue in Israel

The head of the possible Alexander the Great figure in the Huqoq mosaic. Photo by Jim Haberman.

An intricate mosaic depicting Alexander the Great meeting a Jewish high priest was uncovered in a 5th-century synagogue at the archeological site in the ancient village of Huqoq.

An extremely rare find, the mosaic is significant because it is the first non-biblical scene discovered in an ancient synagogue.

The colorful floor-piece shows a meeting of two men and also depicts several other human and animal figures.

The head of the American team of archaeologists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, professor Jodi Magness, told the Daily Mail that the inclusion of elephants in the scene indicates that at least one of the figures was Greek.

The presence of elephants indicates that the figures are Greek, experts say. There are no bible stories featuring elephants. Photo by Jim Haberman.

The presence of elephants indicates that the figures are Greek, experts say. There are no bible stories featuring elephants. Photo by Jim Haberman.

“Battle elephants were associated with Greek armies beginning with Alexander the Great, so this might be a depiction of a Jewish legend about the meeting between Alexander and the Jewish high priest,” she said.

“Different versions of this story appear in writings of Flavius Josephus and in rabbinic literature,” she explained.

The archaeological excavation of the site at Huqoq, which is supported by the Israel Antiquities Authority, has been ongoing since 2012. Researchers have previously unearthed several splendid mosaics in the area, including an image of Samson.

Professor Magness called the artworks “unique discoveries,” emphasizing that “the images in these mosaics, as well as their high level of artistic quality, and the columns painted with vegetal motifs have never been found in any other ancient synagogue.”

See more photos of the Huqoq mosaics below.

Detail from the Huqoq synagogue’s 5th century mosaic showing Samson carrying the gate of Gaza, from Judges 16, found in the east aisle of the ancient Synagogue. Photo by Jim Haberman.

Detail from the Huqoq synagogue’s 5th century mosaic showing Samson carrying the gate of Gaza, from Judges 16, found in the east aisle of the ancient Synagogue. Photo by Jim Haberman.

Theatre mask mosaic found in 2015 at Huqoq. Photo by Jim Haberman.

Theatre mask mosaic found in 2015 at Huqoq. Photo by Jim Haberman.

UNC professor Jodi Magness (center) and UNC students (left to right) Brian Coussens, Caroline Carter, Jocelyn Burney, Jonathan Branch, and Kelly Gagnon, with the 2012 Huqoq mosaic. Photo by Jim Haberman.

UNC professor Jodi Magness (center) and UNC students (left to right) Brian Coussens, Caroline Carter, Jocelyn Burney, Jonathan Branch, and Kelly Gagnon, with the 2012 Huqoq mosaic. Photo by Jim Haberman.


Follow artnet News on Facebook:


Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

Share

Article topics