Dr Dennis Mizzi
(Department of Oriental Studies, UM) is a senior staff member on the excavations of an ancient synagogue at Huqoq in Israel. He supervises excavations in the northern area of the synagogue and is in charge of the publication of the stone and metal artifacts from the site.
Dr Mizzi writes about the project that is bringing to light splendid mosaic panels that have been hidden away for over 1,400 years.
'Huqoq is an unimpressive place for most. But the agricultural village has held its own since biblical times, some saying it was nestled at the very heart of Jesus’s Galilean ministry. In 2011, Prof. Jodi Magness (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) set her sights on the village for excavation. The visible remains scattered among the surface rubble, the accessibility of the site, and the fact that it had never yet been excavated made this a prime location. But when the digging started and long-lost treasures were unearthed—intricate mosaics, pottery, coins—a slew of crucial questions also arose. Questions that would revolutionise the study of ancient Judaism and of Jewish-Christian relations in antiquity.
Originally, our team set out to answer a humble, but highly loaded, question: when did monumental synagogues of the so-called ‘Galilean’ type emerge in Palestine? Traditionally, synagogue buildings were divided into three major architectural types, with ‘Galilean’ synagogues considered to be the oldest. Boasting a basilica plan with three aisles and a nave, these types of structures were often classified by experts as dating back to the second and third centuries CE. Architectural parallels with Roman temples in Syria and Asia Minor reinforced this notion. But hard evidence on the ground suggests otherwise.'