A stunning 1,700-year-old ornate mosaic, unearthed in 2015 in Israel, was revealed to the public the very next year. Discovered in the city of Lod, around 15 km (or 9 miles) southeast of Tel Aviv, this exquisite mosaic was originally part of the courtyard pavement in a plush villa (domus), during the late Roman and Byzantine periods.
When it comes to history, the ancient city of Lod in central Israel (derived from Biblical Lod or Lydda) boasts a legacy that passed through the antithetical themes of commerce, scholarship, and violence. Pertaining to the former points, Lod was one of the important Jewish centers since 5th century BC, possibly fueled by the inhabitants who returned after the Babylonian captivity. However, by the latter half of 1st century BC till 2nd century AD, the settlement was subject to numerous instances of Roman intrusions, with two major wars – the First Jewish–Roman War (circa 66–73 AD) and the Kitos War (115-117 AD), playing their part in the significant destruction of the town.
And it was only by 200 AD, when the settlement then known as Diospolis (“City of Zeus”), was elevated to the status of a Roman city. And while the urban scope was revived, the now Christianized city lost much of its original Jewish population. Interestingly enough, Diospolis is also considered as the traditional site of the martyrdom of St. George, the patron saint of England. In any case, the magnificent mosaic sections showcased here date from the extensive Romanized period of the city.
Measuring around 36 by 42 feet (approx. 11 by 13 meter) in the area, the mosaic was uncovered, by archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), during the construction of a special visitors’ center for the famous Lod Mosaic (pictured above). According to the team, excavation works at the city’s Neveh Yerek neighborhood revealed this impressive piece of ornate mosaic. Speaking about the find, Yohi Shwartz, the spokesperson at IAA, said:
Important artifacts were discovered in the new excavation, the most notable of which is another colorful mosaic (11×13 meters) that was the courtyard pavement of the magnificent villa that had the famous mosaic in its living room.
Excavation works in the area date back to the early 1990s when archaeologist Miriam Avissar and her team unearthed the now world-renowned Lod Mosaic. Believed to be one of the most beautiful artifacts in the entire country, it is currently on display at Venice-based Cini Gallery. In the last few years, the mosaic had been exhibited in some of the world’s most famous museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia as well as Paris’s Louvre Museum. Once completely constructed, Lod’s visitor center will be the mosaic’s permanent home.
As part of the excavations conducted in 2015, the archaeologists explored the southern end of the complex, which housed the famed Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Archaeological Center. During their survey, the team came across a large mosaic-covered courtyard, lined with magnificent porticos supported by thick columns. According to the director of the excavation, Amir Gorzalczany, the courtyard, and the surrounding porticos were once part of a spectacular villa. He said:
The villa was part of a neighborhood of affluent houses that stood here during the Roman and Byzantine periods. At that time, Lod was called Diospolis and was the district capital, until it was replaced by Ramla after the Muslim conquest. The building was used for a very long time.
The ‘newly-uncovered’ mosaic depicts stunning scenes of fish, hunted and hunting animals, flowers in vases, birds and so on. Gorzalczany added:
The quality of the images portrayed in the mosaic indicates a highly developed artistic ability… Numerous fragments of frescoes reflect the decoration and the meticulous and luxurious design, which are in the best tradition of the well-born of the period. In light of the new discoveries, this part of the villa also will be incorporated in the visitor center.
Source: TimesofIsrael / Images Credit: IAA