BAR 37:04, Jul/Aug 2011
New Synagogue Excavations In Israel and Beyond
It seems like almost everywhere archaeologists dig in the eastern Galilee these days, they are coming up with ancient synagogues.
In 2007, a third–fourth-century C.E. synagogue with beautifully decorated mosaic floors depicting Biblical episodes was discovered at the site of Khirbet Wadi Hamam outside Tiberias; just last summer, European archaeologists digging only 4 miles away, at Horvat Kur, announced that they, too, had found a synagogue, probably dating at least a century later.
Perhaps the most exciting recent synagogue discovery in Israel was in Magdala, reputedly the home of Mary Magdalene. (Was this the synagogue she regularly attended?) On the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the newly discovered Magdala synagogue, excavated by archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), is one of only seven uncovered in Israel that was in use during the first century C.E., when the Jerusalem Temple still stood. The others include Masada, Herodium and Gamla, with which BAR readers are familiar.a Other possible examples have been excavated at Herodian Jericho, Qiryat Sefer and Modi’in.b