History Changing Research

Jodi Magness, Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at UNC-Chapel Hill, serves as the director of the Huqoq Excavation Site in Israel. She and a cohort of students are working to uncover ancient mosaics at the ancient Galilee village to decipher whether Judaism declined or flourished during the rise of Christianity.

Magness is challenging long-held opinions about Jewish history.

“What Jodi is doing with this excavation is reshaping the way we think about Judaism in this historical period,” said Robert Rhinehart, a rising junior at Carolina. Rhinehart has spent two summers in Huqoq and now plans to pursue a career in archaeology because of Magness’ influence. He said it feels “crazy to think that you’re a part of her historically changing research.”

In 2012, Magness discovered mosaics where she didn’t expect them, flipping the excavation project on its head and igniting controversy with archaeologists who believe Jewish settlements declined in conjunction with the rise of Christianity. Magness argues that settlements actually flourished — and she discovered that she was right.

“We have a clearly Jewish village that prospered and … a synagogue that’s built like, what, 75 years after the legalization of Christianity, so to my satisfaction, we’ve answered those questions,” said Magness.

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