Archaeologists excavating a Roman-era synagogue at the site of Huqoq, Israel, have uncovered two new panels of a mosaic floor with instantly identifiable subjects—Noah's ark, and the parting of the Red Sea during the Israelite exodus from Egypt.Follow the link for an image of the Red Sea scene. The Huqoq synagogue is the art historian's gift that just keeps on giving. See also this Baylor University press release: Baylor Professor Helps Uncover Mosaics in Ancient Synagogue in Israel, which also has photos of the new mosaics. The Baylor professor is numismatist Nathan Elkins.
"You can see the pharaoh's soldiers with their chariots and horses drowning, and even being eaten by large fish," says excavation director Jodi Magness, from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Such images are extremely rare in this period. "I know of only two other scenes of the parting of the Red Sea in ancient synagogues," Magness explains. "One is in the wall paintings at Dura Europos [in Syria], which is a complete scene but different from ours—no fish devouring the Egyptian soldiers. The other is at Wadi Hamam [in Israel], but that's very fragmentary and poorly preserved."
The ark scenes are equally uncommon. Again, Magness knows of just two: one at the site of Jerash (known as Gerasa in antiquity) in Jordan, and the other at the site of Misis (the ancient Mopsuestia) in Turkey.
For past posts on the Huqoq excavation and the impressive mosaics that have previously been uncovered there, start here and follow the many links back. And for past posts on Dura Europos, its ancient iconographic treasures, and its recent tragic history, start here and, again, follow the many links.