Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) yesterday unveiled a large, 1,700-year-old mosaic floor featuring intricate patterns and images of animals, uncovered in the city of Lod, about nine miles southeast of Tel Aviv. The discovery, made last year during excavations from June through November, occurred when archaeologists were preparing the site to build a visitors center to display the famous Lod Mosaic, according to a release published by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Lod Mosaic, which measures 600 square feet (~55 square meters) and has recently been on view in museums from the Louvre to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, served as the living room floor for the same ancient villa that housed the recently exposed work, which archaeologists believe decorated its courtyard.
“The villa we found was part of a neighborhood of affluent houses that stood here during the Roman and Byzantine periods,” the excavation’s director Dr. Amir Gorzalczany said on behalf of IAA. “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 colorful new finding, which is also open to the public for the first time today — and for now, only through Friday — is smaller than the previously unearthed mosaic, measuring about 36 by 42 feet. Nine large medallions contain images of birds, vases, fish, and beasts, surrounded by interlocking decorative forms and smaller rectangles that each contain more critters. The imagery is strikingly similar to the larger Lod mosaic, which also features individually framed fauna as well as a scene of sailing vessels surrounded by large sea creatures.
“I believe that the house was built by workers originating from North Africa who chose the animals and motifs from their catalogue,” Gorzalczany told Tazpit Press Service. “The animals depicted in the mosaic such as elephants and giraffes existed in North Africa, but not in our environment.”
The discovery comes nearly two decades after that of the Lod mosaic, which was originally exposed in 1996 but was covered once more since no resources were available then to begin conservation efforts. It was only 13 years later that IAA began excavations after it received funding. The mosaic has been touring the world since 2011 and is currently on view at Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice through January. When it returns to Lod, it will be housed at the soon-to-be-constructed Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Archaeological Center, and will now be accompanied by this most recent finding.