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I have checked again, in two major sources:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the ANE
The Anchor Bible Dictionary
Both suggest that there is certainly a lack of archaeological evidence for
the existence of first century synagogues in Palestine. ABD identifies
three sites which may be synagogues- Gamla, Herodium, and Masada.
Both, on the other hand, suggest that there were multiple synagogues in
Israel in the first c. CE.
So, we have in these academic sources contradictory statements. On the one
hand "there were dozens of synagogues" but "there is little archaeological
evidence for their existence".
If I may suggest a solution- this confusion arises simply because some
writers identify the word "synagogue" with a building, when in fact it was
simply an assembly of pious folk. Later on, of course, synagogues became
buildings. But in the first century synagogues were assemblies of people.
Now, I hate to disagree with the authors of ABD and OXford's Encyclopedia-
but there simply is no concrete evidence to support the idea that Herod
built a Synagogue at Herodium; that the room on Masada was used for
scripture and prayer; or that the site of Gamla was used for religious
assemblies. These three sites aside, where are the other archaeological
remains which would demonstrate that there were hundreds of buildings called
synagogues scattered throughout the land? If there were so many, why no
remains (thus far discovered)? The reason seems quite simple; there was no
need for such buildings while the Temple stood. Once the Temple was
destroyed, then such places of meeting would become important.
And in particular, where is there any evidence at all for a synagogue at Qumran?
Finally, for those interested in the subject may I recommend the brilliant
book by Richard A. Horsley, "Archaeology, History and Society in Galilee".
In chapter 6, p. 133 he quotes "no synagogue buildings have been found in
Palestine for the almost 200 years following the destruction of the Temple".
(Quoting Lee Levine).
Jim West, ThD