Burney said it was exciting to be among the first to rediscover the mosaic after more than two millennia.
“When Dr. Magness realized that we were close to uncovering more mosaics this year, she brought everyone over to that part of the site and let us watch as Orna Cohen, the site conservator, brushed away the last few centimeters of dirt,” Burney said.
“We were the first ones to see the mosaic in thousands of years. I won’t ever forget that feeling.”
Austin Andrews, a sophomore religious studies and classical archaeology major, said the digging process itself is hard labor. After waking up at 4 a.m., students arrive at the digging site at about 5 a.m. to begin a long day’s work in 90-degree temperatures.
Magness described the digging process as the opposite of construction work — using various tools to dig up destroyed objects, such as pottery, glass pieces and metal tips.
She said last summer, another mosaic depicting Samson was found at the Huqoq synagogue.
The mosaics were removed from the site for storage and conservation, and the excavated areas were backfilled, she said.
David Culclasure, a senior classical archaeology and history major, said he was able to work on the Samson square this summer as it was being uncovered each day.
“Even though this mosaic was not a complete surprise — guesses had been made after last season’s dig that suggested more depictions of Samson would be found — this mosaic has proven to be full of its own wonders,” Culclasure said.
“The mosaics would have been expensive to fund and reflect that there was sizable wealth present in Huqoq in the fifth century A.D.”
The mosaic was not the only discovery Magness and her team made on the trip, which was co-sponsored by several universities. She said other excavation sites revealed what kind of houses Huqoq inhabitants lived in, as well as the community’s agricultural activities.
Burney said she worked in the domestic areas of the village rather than at the synagogue site.
“The coolest thing for me has been uncovering buildings where people lived and worked and trying to create a picture of what life was like thousands of years ago,” Burney said.
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