Monday, December 11, 2017

JODI MAGNESS LECTURES ON THE HUQOQ SYNAGOGUE

rofessor Jodi Magness embarked on a mission in 2011 to excavate the Huqoq synagogue in Israel with little idea of its contents — and with only an ancient village as its possible location.

Unsure of whether they would find anything, Magness’ team randomly picked a square as their first dig site and discovered archaeological fragments. Eventually, the team unearthed mosaic pavings crafted on the synagogue’s foundation depicting biblical scenes relevant to the history of Israel. Since then, Magness has been working on the excavation and preservation of the historical site in the ancient village of Huqoq, with the eventual goal of relocating the mosaics to public areas.

Pitt’s Jewish Studies program and Nationality Rooms program came together Monday night to host Magness and celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Israel Heritage Classroom — the 20th Nationality Room constructed in the Cathedral.

Magness — a University of North Carolina professor with a bachelor’s in archaeology and history from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem — shared the current status of the excavation site at the Late Roman-era synagogue with more than 80 people during her lecture, “More than Just Mosaics: the Huqoq Synagogue,” in the Cathedral of Learning.

Magness and her excavation team have gone out every summer digging season since 2011 and unearthed a variety of partial and complete mosaic scenes throughout the stone foundations of the Jewish synagogue.

Magness showed the audience of community members, Pitt staff and students unreleased images of the dig sites and the mosaic pavings within — including scenes depicting biblical motifs and stories such as Noah’s Ark and Helios and the Zodiac Cycle, as well as figures including Dionysus and Alexander the Great.
The surviving mosaics stayed preserved under dirt and stone rubble after the synagogue was abandoned due to unknown circumstances, she said. Magness and her team bury the artifacts again after each digging season. “The only way to protect our mosaics from vandalism is to backfill them at the end of the season,” Magness said.



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