Excavations at an ancient synagogue in Israel have produced a remarkable discovery – elaborate mosaics depicting the stories of Noah's Ark and the parting of the Red Sea. The mosaics were discovered on the nave floor of a 5th century synagogue, The Daily Mail reports.
Researchers say these scenes discovered in Huqoq, in 2012, are extremely rare in such a setting, and only a handful of others have been found. Since then, excavations have been conducted every summer.
They have found mosaics depicting Samson and his foxes, and Samson carrying the gate of Gaza on his shoulders, both from the Bible. And, they've found a scene containing a Hebrew inscription surrounded by human figures, animals, and mythological creatures.
The site also produced the first non-Biblical mosaic ever found in an ancient synagogue, showing the meeting between Alexander the Great and the Jewish high priest.
The researchers say this synagogue dates back to a time when the Roman Empire ruled the area, and the mosaics have since been removed from the site for conservation. These ancient relics depict an arc and pairs of animals, including elephants, leopards, donkeys, snakes, bears, lions, ostriches, camels, sheep, and goats.
The mosaics also show images of Pharaoh's soldiers being swallowed by large fish, with overturned chariots, horses, and drivers surrounding them.
"These scenes are very rare in ancient synagogues," said Jodi Magness, director of the excavations and professor at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina.
"The only other examples that have been found are at Gerasa/Jerash in Jordan, Mopsuestia/Misis in Turkey, Khirbet Wadi Hamam in Israel, and Dura Europos in Syria."
Along with these efforts, Nathan Elkins, a coin specialist on site, is working to protect ancient coins from looting and smuggling. "'The ancient coins at Huqoq, which I study, span 2300 years at the site," says Mr Elkins, a PhD coin specialist and assistant professor of art history, "and are critical for our knowledge of the monumental synagogue and the associated village."
Ancient mosaics of the Red Sea parting and Noah's Ark discovered in 5th century synagogue in Israel (The Daily Mail)