Sunday, January 30, 2011

Zodiacs in Ancient Jewish Synagogues

I don't remember if I've posted about this article, so here it is, just in case I have not.  It's from BAR and is a very interesting discussion of how and why beautiful mosaic zodiacs (pagan imagery) showed up on the floors of many Jewish synagogues.  There are several photographs of examples in situ, some very damaged (both deliberately by being defaced and just by way of time and exposure).

I snipped this image of the Ark of the Covenant from the floor at Beth Alpha because of its very interesting iconography.  While several elements of the mosaic are described in the snip, it is silent regarding the animals on either side of the Ark.  Just what they are - some kind of feline? - is not described and I'm not sure, exactly, from the images, but they seem to me to more resemble felines than dogs.  A goose on either side of the upper portion of the Ark cover is also an interesting use of a very ancient Egyptian symbol for the god Geb!  Of course, by the time this floor was created in about 500 CE, the remnants of the ancient Egyptian civilization was falling into ruins; the great temples of old had been closed, pharaohs reigned no longer, not even Greek pharaohs; the library at Alexandra has been burned to the ground, with who knows what ancient knowledge lost to the world forever. 

The mosaics themselves are quite beautiful, even in their sometimes very damaged state.  Visit the article and take a look!  Jewish Worship, Pagan Symbols: Zodiac mosaics in ancient synagogues, by Walter Zanger.

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