Twenty years ago workers constructing a highway through the Israeli town of Lod stumbled across a series of mosaic floors that date back to about CE 300. The work, covering an area of 50 by 27 feet, became known as the Lod Mosaic and went on a world tour a few years ago.
Above image: The most recent Lod Mosaic excavated in Israel last month. Photograph by Niki Davidov.
Lightning struck twice last month when workers with the Israel Antiquities Authority stumbled across another ancient mosaic a few meters away. This find was also an accident, as the mosaic was discovered where curators planned to construct a visitors center for the Lod Mosaic.
Excavators said that the work probably covered the living room for a villa that dates back to the Roman Empire in the region. The work is about 1,700 years old. It’s smaller than the Lod Mosaic, about 36 x 42 feet.
“The villa was part of a neighborhood of affluent houses that stood here during the Roman and Byzantine periods,” Amir Gorzalczany, excavation director, said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
“The quality of the images indicates a highly developed artistic ability,” Gorzalczany said.
Hyperallergic reports that the new work includes “nine large medallions” with images of birds, vases, fish and beasts, surrounded by interlocking forms and smaller rectangles that also contain fauna. The larger Lod Mosaic features similar animals, but also scenes of ships surrounded by large sea creatures. The pair of works look just as articulate as when Roman socialites tread on them nearly two millennia ago.
Caretakers for the Lod mosaic commented on its place in ancient art history.
Many Roman mosaics have been found in Israel, but the discovery at Lod has attracted considerable attention because the mosaics are of exceptional quality and in an excellent state of preservation. The three best-preserved and most interesting panels have been selected for the loan exhibition that is to tour America during the next couple of years while a permanent display venue is constructed at Lod. In 2009 a major gift from Shelby White and the Leon Levy Foundation was made to enable the Israel Antiquities Authority to conserve the mosaic and establish the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Archaeological Center.
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