A rare, well-preserved mosaic discovered during archeological excavations conducted by the Antiquities Authority in Lod, southeast of Tel Aviv, will be displayed to the public for the first time this week, the authority announced on Monday.The mosaic, which once served as a living room floor in a villa during the Roman and Byzantine periods 1,700 years ago, was unearthed last year by a team of Antiquities Authority archeologists during a large excavation in the city’s Neveh Yerek neighborhood.“The aim of the excavation was to prepare the ground for construction of a visitor center, to which the beautiful mosaic will be returned when it completes a series of exhibitions in museums around the world,” authority spokeswoman Yoli Shwartz 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.”According to Antiquities Authority excavation director Dr. Amir Gorzalczany, the villa was located in a neighborhood of affluent homes.“At that time, Lod was called Diospolis and was the district capital until it was replaced by Ramle after the Muslim conquest,” said Gorzalczany. “The building was used for a very long time.”
The northern part of the complex, where the “Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center” will be constructed, was exposed in the early 1990s when the authority was inspecting development work being carried out prior to construction of Route 90, he said.“The mosaic, which was discovered and excavated at that time by the late Miriam Avissar, is among the most beautiful in the country, and has been exhibited in recent years in some of the world’s leading museums, including the Metropolitan, the Louvre and the State Hermitage, etc.,” Gorzalczany added. “It is currently on display at the Cini Gallery in Venice, Italy, and in the future it will be housed in the main building to be erected in Lod.”The southern part of the complex was exposed during the current excavations, he said.“Among other things, it includes a large magnificent courtyard that is paved with a mosaic and surrounded by porticos [stone–covered galleries open to the courtyard] whose ceiling was supported by columns,” Gorzalczany said.
The eastern part of the complex could not be completely exposed because it extends beneath modern buildings in the neighborhood, he said.The scenes in the newly revealed mosaic depict hunting and hunted animals, fish, flowers in baskets, vases and birds. “The quality of the images portrayed in the mosaic indicates a highly developed artistic ability,” the archeologist said.“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.”Antiquities Authority archeologists Hagit Torgë, Uzi ‘Ad, Eriola Jakoel and Yossi Elisha participated in the excavation, which was done in cooperation with the Lod Municipality, Gorzalczany said.