Department of Antiquities, Syria

A wall painting from the Dura-Europos synagogue twice depicts Moses during the Exodus. At right Moses observes the sea enveloping the Egyptian pursuers. At left he leads a procession of Israelites, carrying their tribal standards, across the sea (the blue-green ground line filled with fish at lower left). From the top of the frame, the hand of God gestures towards each scene.

The demise of Dura-Europos in the third century A.D. actually contributed to the excellent preservation of the synagogue’s wall paintings. When invaders threatened Dura-Europos in 256 A.D., the inhabitants filled much of the city with rubble to create a defensive platform. The maneuver failed but the rubble fill preserved the buildings to an exceptional height. The synagogue has been beautifully conserved by the Syrian Department of Antiquities and is now on display at the National Museum in Damascus—an admirable example of the preservation by one country of another culture’s treasures.