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art, Jewish

Architecture, coinage, and funerary remains reflect distinctive Jewish modes of participation in the larger visual culture of the Graeco-Roman period. Jews tended to distance themselves from artefacts and imagery deemed potentially 'idolatrous', although this category was somewhat fluid. Hasmonaean and Jewish revolt coinage exhibits mainly floral motifs and a palaeo-Hebrew script, reminiscent of Tyrian numismatics. The Temple menorah and showbread table appear on lepta of Antigonos Mattathias (39 bce), and other Jerusalem cult objects are found on coins of the First Revolt (66–74 ce) and the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132–5 ce), which bear a tetrastyle representation of the lost Temple. The architecture of Herod's Temple (c.20/19 bce – 70 ce) was consonant with Augustan imperial architecture, apart from the avoidance of human and most animal imagery. From the 3rd cent. ce, symbols drawn from the Temple cult (e.g. the menorah), some of which were carried over into synagogue liturgy (e.g. palm frond bundles and ram's horns), served, with images of Torah shrines, as markers of Jewish identity across the Roman and Sassanian (see sasanids) domains. Wall paintings depicting biblical scenes, such as those which appear in the Dura Europos synagogue (c.245 ce), were likely widespread. Basilical synagogues with large Torah shrines, usually aligned toward Jerusalem, are attested in Palestine and disaspora communities from the late 4th cent.; many Palestinian mosaic pavements were decorated with zodiac and biblical imagery.


S. Fine, Art and Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a New Jewish Archaeology (2010).Find this resource:

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