According to Live Science, excavations of the synagogue in the ancient Jewish village of Hukkok have been ongoing since 2012. Over the past period, scientists have discovered a whole collection of images on famous biblical subjects. One of the last finds is a mosaic depicting the spies that Moses sent to Canaan (the Promised Land). According to the biblical text, he sent 12 scouts, telling them to find out what kind of people live in Canaan, whether there is fertile soil and whether the fruit is tasty. The verses tell about two scouts who cut a bunch of grapes. She was so big and heavy that they had to carry her two on the pole. The mosaic found, according to scientists, depicts this scene. It is located in the northern aisle of the synagogue, on the next wall is depicted a young man leading the animal on a rope; in this image Isaiah 11: 6 is mentioned, with the inscription: "A little child will lead them."
In total, during the excavation period, 12 mosaics were found on biblical subjects, including images of Samson, Noah's Ark, the Tower of Babel, crossing the Red Sea. The age of all finds is estimated at about 1600 years.
The results of the excavations indicate that the villagers prospered at the beginning of the fifth century AD, when the region was under the Christian rule of Rome.
"The mosaics that decorate the floor of the Hakoka synagogue overturn our ideas about Judaism during this period," Jody Magness, professor of archeology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who led the excavations, said in her Live Science statement. "Ancient Jewish art is often thought to be iconoclastic or characterized by a lack of images, but these mosaics, colorful and filled with figurative scenes, indicate a rich visual culture, as well as the dynamism and diversity of Judaism in the late Roman and Byzantine periods."
Ancient synagogues were often decorated with biblical subjects. "What is unusual is the wealth and variety of scenes in our synagogue," said Magness. "There is not a single synagogue in Israel with so many images, and many scenes are not found in any other ancient synagogue."
The mosaics, most likely, were intended not only for decorating the synagogue, but also served as educational purposes, because many people at that time were illiterate, Magness said. In her opinion, mosaics were one way of informing them about the Bible. Some of the sacred texts that were read in the synagogue were imprinted in mosaics.