Hershel Shanks

SYNAGOGUE OR SPRINGHOUSE? The most impressive architectural find of the 1970s excavation was this small, 30-foot-square building, which was identified by the Franciscan excavator as a synagogue. Doric columns—including heart-shaped columns at two corners (see detail)—and a water channel run along three sides of the building, and a set of five steps or benches occupy the fourth. Other scholars, including Israeli archaeologist Ehud Netzer, believe that the structure functioned instead as a springhouse, providing the residents of Magdala with a place to draw fresh water.