« Scientists of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archaeology uncovered the ruins one of the oldest synagogues known to mankind dating back to the Second Temple period (597 BC-AD 70) of Jewish history.
Footage filmed on Saturday shows the territory of the archaeological site at Phanagoria Museum-Reserve, as well as parts of the synagogue walls, fragments of marble tablets, menorahs and other items found during the excavations.
Head of Phanagoria expedition Vladimir Kuznetsov explained that discovery helped the scientists to determine the date of the synagogue’s construction and the story of its demise, which could be traced back the early first century AD.
« We didn’t know where it was or how long it had existed, and this discovery that we made this year – the discovery of the synagogue showed that it perished in the middle of the sixth century BC as a result of an attack by enemy local tribes that destroyed the city and with it everything that was there, including the synagogue, » said Kuznetsov.
In addition, the head of the expedition noted that the discovery of fragments of ornaments in the shape of menorahs – that appear to be copied from the ones in the temple in Jerusalem – alongside inscriptions in Greek on the fragments confirm that the building was a synagogue.
« And this is absolutely original, as far as I know, a unique menorah – this huge menorah, on which lamps were placed and which was apparently a decoration of the Phanagoria synagogue. It really is a work of art, » he said.
Kuznetsov claimed that the discovery of the ancient place of worship was ‘one of the most important for Judaism’ in the last decades, and that it had caused ‘a great resonance in the Judaic world’.
The Phanagoria Museum-Reserve was founded in 2014 around the excavated ruins of the ancient Greek city of Phanagoria, which had flourished for 1500 years from 600 BC to 900 AD. The annual archaeological expeditions have been funded for 20 years by Volnoe Delo Foundation established by Russian billionaire and industrialist Oleg Deripaska. »