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More ancient mosaics of biblical Samson uncovered by American archaeologists in Roman-era synagogue in northern Israel

A Philistine soldier killed by Samson depicted on mosaic floor in the ancient synagogue at Huqoq (Photo: Jim Haberman)

A group of American archaeologists from the University of North Carolina discovered more mosaics of the biblical figure Samson in a Roman-era synagogue in Israel.

The team, led by Prof. Jodi Magness, found the mosaics in the synagogue adjacent to the ancient Jewish village of Huqoq in the Galilee region.

Mosaics depicting the life of biblical judges were first uncovered during the excavation seasons of 2012 and 2013. Those images told the story of Samson's exploits with the foxes, as found in Judges 15:4, as well as the epic account of Samson carrying the Gaza gate on his shoulders, as seen in Judges 16:3.

In this eleventh – and final – excavation season, more mosaics depicting Samson's additional exploits were uncovered, such as his heroic fight against Philistine forces. In addition, the ancient floors also depict nature scenes, such as lions and predators pursuing their prey.

The mosaics contain a Hebrew and Aramaic inscription. One theory is that the list of names in Aramaic could be ancient donors who “funded the synagogue’s mosaics or the artists who made them, asking that they be remembered for good.” 

Samson, known in Hebrew as Shimson, was an iconic Israelite warrior and judge from the Book of Judges. He is known for his immense strength, which reportedly came from his uncut hair.

Despite its tiny size, Israel offers a wealth of archaeological gems of Jewish and universal importance.

In 2022, Magness' team discovered mosaics of the biblical heroines Deborah and Jael, also in the ancient Jewish village of Huqoq.

“This is the first depiction of this episode and the first time we’ve seen a depiction of the biblical heroines Deborah and Jael in ancient Jewish art,” Magness said at the time.

“Looking at the Book of Joshua, chapter 19, we can see how the story might have had special resonance for the Jewish community at Huqoq, as it is described as taking place in the same geographical region — the territory of the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun,” the archaeologist said.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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