Spectacular ancient mosaic floor returns to Israel

Exquisite Roman mosaic floor returns to Israel after being displayed around the world to serve as centerpiece of new archaeological center in Lod.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

A huge chunk of a massive 1,700-year-old mosaic floor piece has returned home to Israel and will form the centerpiece of a new archaeological center in the central city of Lod, where it was first unearthed over 20 years ago.

As often happens in Israel, during construction of a new road in the city in 1996, workers exposed an area of exquisite Roman mosaic floors dating from the fourth century CE. The finely detailed ceramic work featured artistically crafted ships, fish, birds and animals including lions, tigers and elephants laid out in intricate geometric patterns that archaeologists estimate were part of a luxurious private mansion.

One segment was so spectacular in its artwork and preservation that it was removed from the site and toured the world’s great museums including the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Field Museum in Chicago, the Louvre in Paris, the Altes Museum in Berlin, Waddesdon Manor in England and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg in Russia.

Ancient mosaic floor in the city of Lod (Israel Antiquities Authority)

The piece of flooring has now returned home to Israel and was reconstructed at a new archaeological center in Lod, just south of Ben Gurion International Airport, where it will be open to the public-at-large some time in the first half of 2021.

The mosaic is considered one of the most beautiful ever unearthed in the country, and will join other archaeological finds in a new structure that was established in collaboration with the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Lod Municipality and the New York-based Leon Levy Foundation, which funded much of the project.

The floor of the ancient Roman villa was found to be exceptional in the quality of its construction, its contents and its state of preservation. The site is located in what was part of a wealthy neighborhood in Lod during the Roman and Byzantine periods.

Two other mosaics were found on the site. The three spectacular works of art will be displayed in the new visitor center named for donor Shelby White, who heads the foundation named after her late husband, Leon Levy.

Ancient mosaic floor in the city of Lod (Israel Antiquities Authority)

Ancient mosaic floor in the city of Lod (Israel Antiquities Authority)

The mosaic is planned to be an attraction for tourists and Lod mayor Yair Revivo sees the archaeology center as part of the process of developing and upgrading his city.

“Very soon, our dream in a city that is entirely a mosaic of cultures, will come true before our eyes when one of the important museums that will place Lod on the national tourism map is inaugurated,” Revivo said. “There is no doubt that it will connect visitors to a tourist route that will include spectacular historical sites that we are restoring as part of the development of the Old City [of Lod].”