She's not Indiana Jones, but she's an archaeology expert all the same. UNC Kenan Distinguished Professor Jodi Magness has been excavating the ancient village of Huqoq in Galilee, Israel since 2011. Recently, she discovered the remains of a synagogue, which featured rare mosaics, and will be speaking about her findings at Genome Science Building tonight. Staff writer Audrey Leynaud spoke to Magness about her research, her discoveries and her travels.
The Daily Tar Heel: What is your academic focus?
Jodi Magness: I’m an archaeologist and I specialize in the archaeology of Palestine by which I mean the territory of modern Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories in the Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic period. So basically from the first century to the eighth and ninth centuries.
DTH: Why is Huqoq — and that area of Israel in particular — important ?
JM: I’ve been directing excavations in Huqoq since 2011. It is an ancient Jewish village near the sea of Galilee and it was occupied in many different periods, but my research interest is on the late Roman period, around the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries.
It is the period when the Jews came under Christian rule because in the fourth century the Roman empire became a Christian empire. One of the questions I am interested in is what happened to Jewish communities when Christians become the rulers. We are bringing to light a monumental synagogue building that dates exactly to this period — to the fifth century — and that is what I’m going to focus on in my talk.
DTH: Is it what you expected to find there?
JM: No, it’s not. Well, I was hoping to find a synagogue building, that’s kind of what I was looking for. I had a series of research questions that I wanted to answer that surround this kind of building. I did not expect to find mosaics because this kind of building typically does not have mosaic floors; usually synagogues of this architectural type have flagstone pavement floors and not mosaics. The mosaics were completely unexpected.
DTH: The profession of archaeologist is often idealized, and it is easy to imagine you traveling the world and discovering long-lost artifacts. Is it really like that ?