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The Megiddo Mosaics . . . Again?

March 4, 2018

Over the weekend, I was alerted by a couple of friends about a news story of an exhibition of the Megiddo Christian mosaics: here.  These friends weren’t aware that the mosaics had been discovered and written about  (including a LOT of news coverage) way back in 2005-2007.  I mentioned them in an earlier posting here.

The archaeologist in charge of the dig, Dr Yotam Tepper of the University of Haifa, has continued to insist that the mosaics are early 3rd century CE, which would make them among the earliest Christian epigraphy, and would make the room/church in which the mosaics were placed the earliest Christian structure known.  (The Dura Europos church is dated sometime before 256 CE, when the city was sacked.)

But the date of the mosaics is contested, with others placing them anytime from the late 3rd through the 5th century CE.  To my knowledge, we still don’t have the full archaeological analysis of the dig, for which numismatic evidence would be crucial for dating.  So, it’s a bit surprising that the authorities have chosen to put the mosaics on show, and flog all the news coverage about them.  And it’s disappointing that the news stories (which, apparently, are based on news feed from the exhibitors) make no mention of the scholarly debate about the date of the items.

I give a scholarly analysis by Prof. Edward Adams of the matter published nearly a decade ago:  here.  There is a (somewhat dated) web site that gives a good deal of information as well here.

Bottom line:  (1) the mosaics aren’t really news as they’ve been in the press and in scholarly debate for over a decade, and (2) the scholarly guild is still debating the correct dating of the mosaics, which has a lot to do with their historical import.  More when I know more!

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  1. Larry, have you seen who is sponsoring the excavations at Megiddo? Doesn’t it look like a biased group bound to draw false conclusions?

    • Geoff: The most recent excavations were conducted by archaeologists of Haifa University under permission of the Israeli authorities. They’ve presented their preliminary findings, a quite impressively researched piece of work. There remain differences of opinion about the date of the mosaics and the room used for cultic purposes. But I see no theological skewing on anything. Relax, and let actual scholars get on with the matter.

  2. Julian permalink

    I notice one of the mosaics is an image of two fish in a pattern very similar to what is used for the symbol of Pisces. Just coincidence?

    • Fish decoration is common in Roman-era art. Fish also served as symbols in early Christianity. Pisces nothing to do with either.

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