There is beauty wherever you look in Israel. Much of it is in the stunning environmental views you see from oceans, to lakes, to deserts and mountains. However, since the beginning, people have sought to seek out ways of expressing themselves, and one of the main ways to do so is through art. Art in ancient Israel can be seen frequently through the land. Here are some places it can be found!
Examples of Art in Ancient Israel
Scultpures in ancient Israel include everything from tiny little figurines to large sculptures the size of giants. What is noteworthy is that most of these sculptures would not be of Hebrew decent. That is because they were not to graven images or idols.
Sculptures and figurines are found in the area and sometimes they can be as far back and the Canaanite period. These figures are often in the shape of female, and are thought to be fertility idols and charms, in hopes of encouraging the brith of strong sons.
The Greeks and Romans also left their footprint by way of sculpture. Both were famous for their statues and busts and examples of these can be found around the areas, especially those around the Decapolis for greek influence and Ceaserea Maritima for the Roman influence.
While the Israelites were not ones to form sculptures, there are many examples of ornate decor being added to buildings. These are well documented in the Bible, in speaking of how the Ark of the Covenant and the Temple were decorated ornately.
Examples of this include the beautiful capitals that were used in the palace of King David. These were found in the City of David during the pandemic and dazzle visitors now as a new set in Israel that wasn’t there before the shutdown.
Recently, ornate ivory inlays were discovered from the First Temple period. While the Bible had spoken of these exact inlays, they’d never been discovered before. A large cache was discovered, and shines a whole new light on the era.
There were also podiums found in which the Torah would have been laid across in order to read. One of these is at the synagogue found at Magdala. This synagogue dates back to the time of Jesus, so it’s very likely that Jesus himself would have read scrolls from this very spot. It is adorned in a traditional Hebrew manor, with non-living items on it, including a menorah.
Mosaic art is everywhere you go within Israel. Artisans would create stunning ornate floors throughout the land, sometimes being found on accident after dirt has covered it for thousands of years. Due to the covering, they are often found in perfectly preserved condition.
There are over 7 thousand mosaics pieces of art in ancient Israel known and that number grows constantly.
Mosaics in Israel include “The Bird Mosaic” in Caesarea Maritima. It was made during the Byzantine era and has bars and other animals on it during what would have been the heyday of the city’s Christian population.
Another mosaic is actually inside of a prison outside of the infamous Meggido. It dates back to what may be the oldest known church. The mosaic dates back to the third century and is considered the earliest know mosaic dedicated to Jesus. This is considered such an important finding, they are actually moving the prison to allow people to visit the area and further exploration to happen! Look forward to this extra stop when you are visiting Meggido next time you are in Israel!
The thought of painters during the time of Jesus and before doesn’t seems to strike many, but they did in fact exist. The average family did not have painted walls and arts, but the wealthy certainly did. Herod for one was quite known for his love of this art in ancient Israel.
Herod was fond of frescos that included lavish, deep colors. Artists would paint beautiful patterns and fruits etc giving the area a very district Jewish feel with Roman influence. Some of this paint has actually stood the test of time today! It can be seen at Masada and Herodium in it’s original, though faded glory.
We hope you will come visit Israel soon and experience the art of ancient Israel for yourself!