A team of research specialists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered a 1,600-year-old mosaic in the remains of a synagogue at the site of the ancient village of Huqoq in Israel’s lower Galilee. The fifth-century stone mosaics depict two Old Testament accounts.
An Aramaic inscription on one of the mosaics identifies it as the four beasts, representing four kingdoms, described in Daniel 7. The artwork shows the first beast as a lion with eagle’s wings, but the lion and the third beast are not distinguishable. The second beast from Daniel 7:4, a bear with three ribs protruding from its mouth, and fourth beast, described as having iron teeth and 10 horns, both appear well-preserved. Jodi Magness, director of the Huqoq excavations, said the Daniel mosaic points to end times expectations among this ancient congregation.
The team also uncovered the first ancient Jewish art showing Elim, the second place that the Israelites camped after God parted the Red Sea when Moses led them out of slavery in Egypt. In Exodus 15:27, the Bible describes Elim with 12 springs of water and 70 palm trees.
Three horizontal panels divide the mosaic. One strip shows men wearing loincloths harvesting clusters of dates and sliding them down ropes held by other men. The second section portrays a row of wells alternating with date palms. And the third panel depicts a man in a short tunic carrying a water jar and entering the arched gate of a city flanked by battlement towers. An inscription above the gate reads, “And they came to Elim.”
Elim is a fairly minor episode in the Israelites’ desert wandering, so the mosaic raises questions about its significance to this ancient congregation, Magness noted in a statement. —J.B.