Israeli Archaeologists Uncover Impressive Roman-Era Mosaic

Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists have uncovered a 1,700-year-old floor mosaic at the city of Lod (ancient Lydda).

The newly-discovered mosaic floor of a Roman-era villa. Image credit: Niki Davidov, Israel Antiquities Authority.

The newly-discovered mosaic floor of a Roman-era villa. Image credit: Niki Davidov, Israel Antiquities Authority.

In 1996, a routine archaeological inspection carried out in Lod and the subsequent rescue excavations, directed by the late IAA archaeologist Dr. Miriam Avissar, uncovered one of the largest and most impressive mosaics ever found in Israel.

Approximately 160 m2 in size, the extraordinary mosaic is comprised of several panels that depict mammals, birds, fish, sea monsters, merchant ships, and geometric and floral patterns.

The mosaic covered the floors of a luxurious Roman villa and is dated to early 4th century CE.

“The excavations at the site exposed a villa that included a large luxurious mosaic-paved reception room triclinium, and an internal columned courtyard, also with mosaics, and a water system,” said Dr. Amir Gorzalczany, director of the current excavations at the city of Lod.

“We found evidence for Mediterranean luxury that characterized the Roman Empire, including attributes such as fresco wall paintings.”

The newly-discovered mosaic depicts birds and fishes and is much smaller than the original Lod mosaic.

It paved an additional reception room next to the sumptuous reception hall uncovered in 1996.

“The archaeological excavation that we carried out in July 2018 was relatively small, but contributed significantly to our understanding of the villa building,” Dr. Gorzalczany said.

“Thankfully, the main central panel of the mosaic was preserved. The figures, many similar to the figures in the earlier mosaics, comprise fish and winged creatures.”

In the past, a fairly similar mosaic was found in Jerusalem, on the Mount Zion slopes.

The Lod mosaics, however, do not depict any human figures that are present in the Mount Zion mosaic.

“It is quite probable that the same artist produced both mosaics or two artists worked from a similar design,” the archaeologists said.

“This type of mosaic is better known in the Western part of the Roman Empire.”

“Also noteworthy are the rectangular marks that may denote the placing of the couches on which the participants of the banquet or feast reclined,” Dr. Gorzalczany said.

“These marks are common in similar villas and are an indication of the use of the space in the reception halls.”

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