Newly Discovered Synagogue in Turkey

Sidebar to: New Synagogue Excavations In Israel and Beyond

Amid the late-antique ruins of Andriake, the port city of ancient Myra along the Lycian coast of Turkey, archaeologists recently uncovered a synagogue—only the third ever found in Asia Minor. Dated by the excavators to the fifth century C.E., the synagogue is located less than a half mile from the city’s harbor and would probably have served the needs of Jewish merchants and traders involved in the port. Other ancient synagogues in Asia Minor that have been excavated are at Sardisa and Priene (see sidebar), both in western Turkey.

The newly discovered synagogue at Myra includes two rooms, the larger of which was supported by two columns and served as the main congregational hall. Affixed to the synagogue’s walls were several marble plaques, including this well-preserved relief carved with a seven-branched menorah mounted on a low base. On the left is a lulav (the closed frond of a date palm) and an etrog (a lemon-like fruit); both are associated with the festival of Sukkot. On the right is a shofar (a ram’s horn).

Beneath the branches of the menorah, on either side, are lines curling into a circle. According to some scholars, these represent rolled Torah scrolls seen from the end.1

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