The remains of a Roman-era synagogue were discovered in northern Israel.
The relics, including a mosaic floor, were found during excavations at the foot of Mount Nitai in the Galilee, the Hebrew University archaeological team which conducted the dig said this week.
The structure features basalt and chalkstone walls, and benches along the walls. Its mosaic, which is made up of tiny stones in various colors, depicts woodworkers holding their tools next to a building that may have been meant to represent Noah’s Ark, the Jerusalem Temple or the Tower of Babel.
Archaeologists disagree as to which period the ancient Galilean synagogues belong. The generally accepted view is that they can be attributed to the later Roman period, the second to fourth centuries C.E. – a time of cultural and political flowering of the Jews of the Galilee. But some researchers believe that these synagogues were built mainly during the Byzantine period, the fifth and sixth centuries C.E. – a time that saw the rise of Christianity.
“There are those who tend to believe that the rural Jewish villagers of that era lived in impoverished houses or in huts, and that the magnificent synagogues existed in contrast to the homes that surrounded them,” said Uzi Leibner of Hebrew University. ‘While it is true that the synagogues were built of a quality that exceeded the other structures of the village, the superior-quality private dwellings here testify to the impressive economic level of the residents.”