David Discovered—and Destroyed

Sidebar to: Double Identity

The Egyptian Antiquities Authority discovered this mosaic depicting King David as Orpheus in 1965 in Gaza. Originally interpreted as an image of a female saint, the mosaic first became known to scholars in 1966, when the Italian journal Orientalia reported its discovery. From the photos published in the article, Hebrew University professor Michael Avi-Yonah knew immediately that the mosaic image was not that of a female saint and that the building in which it was discovered was not an ancient church, as stated in the report.a A Hebrew inscription that clearly read “David” was located immediately to the right of the figure’s head. At a glance Avi-Yonah was able to correctly identify the figure as King David playing the harp, and the building in which it was discovered as an ancient synagogue.

It wasn’t until Israel took control of Gaza in 1967, however, that Israeli archaeologists were able to investigate the synagogue and mosaic that they had previously seen only in photographs. They arrived at the site to find that a portion of the mosaic had been destroyed, including David’s head (see photo).

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