After a tour abroad, the Roman mosaic of Lod settles on the site

The Roman mosaic of Lod has been exhibited at the Louvre Museum in Paris, the Metropolitan in New York, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the G. Cini Foundation in Venice and the Altes Museum in Berlin. Back in her country, she will be installed at the Lod Mosaic Archaeological Center, which is specially built at the excavation site where she was exhumed. Called Diospolis in Roman-Byzantine times, the city of Lod in occupied Palestine is the ancient Lydda, destroyed by the Romans in the first Jewish war in 66 AD. Rediscovered by Hadrian, it became a Roman colony under Septimius Severus in 200, then a Christian city in the Byzantine Empire, before coming under Islamic control. His name appears in the Bronze Age on a list of Canaanite cities conquered by Pharaoh Thutmose III in Karnak in the 15th century BC. The city where Jewish and Arab citizens currently live together experienced violent clashes between the communities in 2021.

Israeli conservators working on the 1,700-year-old Lod mosaic. Menahem Kahana / AFP

Textures, colors and patterns

It is in this city, located ten kilometers from Tel Aviv airport, that the mosaic was discovered in 1996, two meters underground, by construction workers who widened the street. The paved triclinium floor (space used for receptions, meals and entertainment) in a Roman villa, built between the 3rd and 4th centuries AD.

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Remarkably preserved and beautifully designed, the Lod mosaic consists of marble and limestone tesserae and stained glass paste, offering a variety of textures and colors, but also a range of decorative motifs with the theme of still lifes. (fruits, flowers, birds). , fish) and a marine scene where two merchant ships sail among fish, dolphins and shells. The octagonal medallion in its central panel shows wild animals, such as the lion, elephant, giraffe, rhino or tiger. Some of these mammals were used by the Romans during circus games. The excavations also revealed ceramic material and coins from the end of the 3rd to the beginning of the 4th century, says the Israel Antiquities Authority (AIA).

The giraffe and the rhino

In the Metropolitan Museum’s catalog, Christopher S. Lightfoot, curator of the Department of Greek and Roman Art, points out that “the giraffe and the rhino are rarely represented in ancient art, making their appearance in Lod’s mosaic all the more. More remarkable. Referring to Heilbrunn’s art history publication, Roman Games: Playing with Animals, also states that the first giraffe seen in Rome was used for Ludi, Julius Caesar’s triumphal procession or public games, in 46 BC. On the other hand, it is oldest known representation of a rhino dates back to the 1st century BC, again according to Lightfoot.It appears in the famous Nile mosaic of Praeneste, a sidewalk from the end of the Hellenistic period, depicting the course of the Nile from Ethiopia to the Mediterranean. It was part of a classical cave reserve in Palestrina, Italy. yret depicted in the mosaics of Praeneste and Lod two horns and must therefore be identified with the black rhino. or white from sub-Saharan Africa. Copies of this fierce and very powerful beast were apparently obtained by the Romans for show in the amphitheater. The Mets curator points out that the rhino appears on the front of bronze coins minted in Rome during the reign of Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD). “A very unusual case,” says Lightfoot.

The Ottoman swamp

Unusual for a mosaic floor of this age, the mosaic is in almost perfect condition, with the exception of one of the two ships depicted, which suffered damage when a swamp from Ottoman times (a hole to harvest rainwater in the absence of sewers or a ditch)) was dug into the mosaic. The ships are of the navis oneraria type, Roman merchant ships, typically displacing 80 to 150 tons, are used to transport goods such as garum and grain from Egypt to Rome. The center will house another polychrome mosaic of the same kind, which was also discovered in Lod, in 2014. 1,700 years old, this sidewalk of 11 meters by 13 meters provides more evidence of the luxurious lifestyle that prevailed in Roman times, according to specialists.

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The Roman mosaic of Lod has been exhibited at the Louvre Museum in Paris, the Metropolitan in New York, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the G. Cini Foundation in Venice and the Altes Museum in Berlin. Back in her country, she will be installed at the Lod Mosaic Archaeological Center, which is specially built at the excavation site where she was exhumed. Called Diospolis in …

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