Although Zodiac signs are portrayed at the 6th-century Beit Alpha synagogue (Israel), [excavator Jodi] Magness stresses that the third Huqoq mosaic is the first non-biblical narrative in a synagogue, even though non-biblical imagery exists. “Helios and the zodiac cycle is not a story or narrative,” she says. “The other stories depicted in ancient synagogues (including at Dura Europos) are all taken from the Hebrew Bible.”Background here and links.
Given the dearth of elephants in the Hebrew bible, identifying the figures in the mosaic is difficult. Magness is quoted in the UNC release saying that battle elephants are associated with Alexander the Great and subsequent Greek armies. The depiction, she writes, could refer to the legend that Alexander met the Jewish high priest. Asked if the elephants (and lit oil lamps in the second register) could suggest the Hanukkah story and the Maccabean revolt, Magness said she and her colleagues had speculated about a Maccabean interpretation last year, but the newly uncovered mosaics defy that identification.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
More on the third Huqoq mosaic
ELEPHANTS: Mystery Mosaic Discovered in Ancient Galilee Synagogue (Menachem Wecker, The Forward). Excerpt: