Top Three Reports in Biblical Archaeology – October 2022

In October 2022, the top three reports in biblical archaeology were about a stunning mosaic in Syria, a suspected synagogue at Chorazin, and a new geomagnetic study that affirmed biblical battles.


A late Roman era mosaic discovered at Rastan, Syria. Photo: Omar Sanadiki

Officials in Syria have announced the discovery of a 1,600-year-old mosaic that depicts scenes from the Trojan War. The mosaic was found in the town of Rastan, near the city of Homs, on property that was purchased and then donated to the Syrian government by businessmen associated with the Nabu Museum in Lebanon. So far 1,300 square feet (120 square meters) of the mosaic has been uncovered, and it features panels with names and images of Greek soldiers from the Trojan War, and depictions from Roman mythology, including Amazon warriors and the god Neptune. Syrian archaeologists are unsure as of yet what type of building the mosaics were once a part of, but excavations are continuing.



Archaeologists excavating at Chorazin removed the boulders that formed the floor of the fourth-century synagogue and discovered pottery dating to the first century underneath, suggesting that the later synagogue was built on top of one from the time of Jesus. While this discovery was apparently made in 2020, it recently came to light in a series of blog posts by Carl Rasmussen. In a video from 2020, Achia Kohn-Tavor, the lead excavator, explains that the floor of the synagogue had never been lifted because previous archaeologists believed they were already at bedrock. When the excavation team removed the giant boulders on which the floor was built, they were able to dig down and reach bedrock, discovering pottery and coins both dating to the first century. Achia Kohn-Tavor believes that the podium of the synagogue was built on top of the synagogue podium from the first century, and that the entire synagogue structure around it was later renovated in the fourth century.

ABR’s Dr. Scott Stripling wrote an article called “The Rise of the Synagogue in Biblical Times” for Bible and Spade in 2020. In it he noted that a previous excavator of Chorazin, Jacob Ory, reported finding a second synagogue 656 ft. (200 m) west of the fourth-century synagogue. Stripling wrote, “Subsequent surveys of the Chorazin ruins have failed to locate this synagogue, which likely dates to the late Second Temple period.…It seems plausible that Ory’s western synagogue served Chorazin’s residents during New Testament times. Hopefully future excavations will relocate this lost synagogue” (see the link to Scott Stripling’s article below).

As recorded in Matthew 11:21, Jesus pronounced a woe on Chorazin and Bethsaida: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (ESV).




A new paleomagnetic study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has helped to clarify the dates of destruction at various Iron Age sites in Israel. The study, entitled, “Reconstructing biblical military campaigns using geomagnetic field data” was authored by Yoav Vaknin, his PhD advisors, and numerous archaeologists, including Amihai Mazar, Aren Maier, Yosef Garfinkel, Rami Arav, Avraham Faust, Ron Tappy, and Seymour Gitin. Paleomagnetics studies the ferromagnetic particles in objects that have been heated at high temperatures, such as in a pottery kiln or in a layer destroyed by fire, to determine the signature of the magnetic field at the time of heating. The earth’s magnetosphere fluctuates, and researchers have spent the past decade reconstructing the earth’s magnetic field by analyzing hundreds of known, datable objects. In their new study, the authors used the data from 21 destruction layers at 17 sites in Israel to determine when the settlements were destroyed. They claim that their research has helped to settle the debate around whether Beth She’an was destroyed by Pharaoh Shishak (Sheshonq I) in the tenth century BC or Hazael, the king of Damascus in the ninth century BC. The paleomagnetic data from burnt bricks in destroyed buildings at Beth She’an does not align with the time of Hazael, but is compatible with the time of Shishak. Another example comes from Beth Shemesh, which the paleomagnetic data suggests was destroyed at the beginning of the 8th century BC. Thsi does not correspond to any known foreign invasion, but does lend support to the biblical text, which describes a battle between Judah and Israel around this time: “So Jehoash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-Shemesh, which belongs to Judah. And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home” (2 Kings 14:11-12). Vaknin believes paleomagnetic data can be used to complement radiocarbon data and ceramic typology to more accurately date artifacts and sites in Israel, particularly during the Iron Age.



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One comment

  1. As always I am keenly interested in the archaeological articles that you send out. While we know the Bible is accurate without archaeological confirmation, it is always wonderful to see how the fines in archaeology do confirm the biblical account. Thank you so much for your ministry and your Reports that interest and. encourage us. Barbara Cross in Carlisle Pennsylvania

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