Carl H. Kraeling, The Synagogue: The Excavations at Dura-Europos, 1956
Destroyed in 256 B.C.E., the striking ancient synagogue at Dura-Europos, in modern Syria, lay undiscovered until the 1930s. Although many of the secco panels survived in good condition, the one over the Torah shrine was painted over several times, making it very difficult to decipher. Careful observation, however, reveals a musician playing to animals in the upper left corner. Interpretations of the panel’s iconography are far from certain, but many agree that the figure of the musician represents the borrowing of the well-known Greco-Roman image of Orpheus to depict David with his harp singing his song of thanksgiving, as described in 2 Samuel 22.