Baylor researchers helped discover this 12th-century synagogue in Galilee
Last summer, we shared with you the story of a historic (and cool) discovery: elaborate mosaics, more than 1,500 years old, that were uncovered in the ruins of an ancient synagogue in Israel’s Galilee region. An excavation team featuring a Baylor art history professor and two students was involved in that find.
Now, less than a year later, their continued work at the site has revealed another fascinating bit of history: the remains of a large public building, which archaeologists believe could be another synagogue, found atop the synagogue where the Bible story mosaics were discovered in Huqoq, Israel.
Team members from Baylor, North Carolina, BYU and the University of Toronto believe this “monumental public building” was built in the 12th and 13th centuries, which raises even more questions. That’s because during the period the building was built, there was little Jewish presence in the region. But despite such questions, researchers do believe the structure to be a synagogue, complete with numerous benches arranged in the style similar to other houses of worship. They also uncovered small mosaic patches and large columns and pedestals. The building actually incorporates the previously discovered 5th-century synagogue into its construction, with the “newer” structure utilizing the older building’s north and east walls.
Both discoveries are part of the Huqoq Excavation Project, which includes Dr. Nathan Elkins, a Baylor art history professor, among its key researchers. The team has been working at the site for five years, with plenty yet to do. Elkins’ expertise is in the area of special coins, and his involvement in the project has opened the door for numerous Baylor students to take part in the dig as well. This summer, work will continue with an even greater Baylor presence. Students can participate as a part of the new “Baylor in the Galilee” program, allowing students to learn at an actual archaeological dig site in the region where Jesus’ ministry took place.
Sic ’em, Dr. Elkins and Huqoq Excavation Project!