An ancient depiction of Old Testament heroines Deborah and Jael was recently discovered at an ancient synagogue in Israel.
The discovery was made and announced by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on July 5, 2022. The dig took place at the ancient Jewish synagogue at Huqoq. The Huqoq Excavation project is in its 10th season as it was put on pause during the pandemic.
In the book of Judges chapter four people read the story about a prophet, judges, and a female military leader, Deborah. She led the army toward Mount Tabor to defeat an enemy named Sisera.
The story takes an interesting turn when a woman named Jael meets a fleeing and defeated Sisera and welcomes him into her tent before driving a tent peg into his head, killing him.
The 1,600-year-old mosaic found was identified as Deborah and Jael because it showed the tent peg through Sisera's head, according to project director Jodi Magness.
"This is extremely rare," says Magness, to Religion News Service. "I don’t know of any other ancient depictions of these heroines."
Along with mosaics, the Huqoq excavation site is filled with ancient wall paintings and carved architecture.
According to Religion News, the mosaic of the women was made of local cut stone from Galilee and was found on the floor on the south end of the synagogue’s west aisle. The mosaic is divided into three sections, one with Deborah seated under a palm tree looking at Barak, a second with what appears to be Sisera seated, and a third with Jael hammering a peg into a bleeding Sisera.
On the south end of the synagogue’s east aisle, mosaics of Sampson were also uncovered. The history of Sampson is also found in the book of Judges.
"The value of our discoveries, the value of archaeology, is that it helps fill in the gaps in our information about, in this case, Jews and Judaism in this particular period," says Magness. "It shows that there was a very rich and diverse range of views among Jews."
The mosaic of Deborah and Jael has since been removed from the synagogue to keep it preserved.