The sun beat upon archeologists unmercifully as they dug up the sand, searching for an ancient synagogue beneath.
Coins and pottery were found within the dirt, and this was quite common. However, as one explorer drew his pick ax and lightly chiseled away the sand, he did not see coins, shards of glass or pottery, but a human face staring directly at him beneath the rubble.
BYU graduate Bryan Bozung, from Highland, said he never expected to find something of this magnitude during his visit to Israel in June.
“That was something we joked about and fantasized about, but nothing you really expected to find,” Bozung said. However, as soon as he uncovered the ancient art, he said he knew it was a mosaic, which was exactly what they were looking for.
BYU professor Matthew Gray helped lead the ancient expedition in Israel and was also instrumental in Bozung’s participation. Gray said while they are always finding things, finding an ancient mosaic that is still very much intact is rare. The ancient mosaic contained inscriptions, as well as an illustration of Samson tying fox tails to torches.
“To find a mosaic that depicts biblical scenes in an ancient synagogue, and then to have that find get international media attention really doesn’t happen that often,” said Gray.
Professor Camille Olson, the department chair of ancient scripture, said this is a remarkable discovery and also helpful to BYU.
“BYU (is) listed as one of the primary parties that sponsors this dig,” Olson said. “All these press releases that have gone out from the dig internationally have BYU’s name on it.”
Olson said members of the Church are famous for relying on prophets and modern-day revelation for answers. However, participating in archeological digs communicates members also seek for knowledge elsewhere.
“It won’t say anything about our beliefs,” Olson said, “but it does underscore that we are interested in greater knowledge, and we explore all different areas of disciplines to be able to come to better understandings of the biblical world. We love our prophets, but that doesn’t preclude us from looking to all different areas to learn.”