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While preparing to build an archaeological center in the city of Lod to house the remains of an enormous, 1,700 year old villa with sumptuous mosaic floors originally found there in 1996, a beautiful mosaic had been discovered just a few meters away, it was announced Sunday.
The original 17m. x 9m. mosaic was discovered accidentally under Lod’s garbage dump during the paving of a new road at the entrance to the city.
It is considered one of the largest and most impressive mosaics ever found in Israel, believed by its excavators in the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) to have covered the enormous house’s living room.
The original Lod mosaic also contained pictures of animals, sea monsters, merchant ships and geometric and floral patterns that were extremely well-preserved. However, none of the mosaics thus far discovered in the villa show a human image. This has led some to speculate that the owner of the villa was a Jew, for whom such pictures would have been forbidden.
Dr. Amir Gorzalczany, the IAA dig director who found the new mosaic, told World Israel News that this discovery was an expected one.
“In 2009, when the funding was found and we removed and preserved the mosaic found in 1996, we dug further and found a courtyard,” he explained. “We could only uncover part of it, though, because the street was covering the rest. Then, in 2014, the street was moved, and we found the rest of the courtyard and a reception room, with more mosaic work. But we couldn’t dig more because people lived there, and there was a parking lot. Now, though, the neighbors were building a protected room, and we got their permission to move the parking lot at the same time, so we found a third mosaic floor.”
Gorzalczany described the most recent find as a possible dining area.
“In three places there are rows of white mosaics laid out diagonally around a rectangular, decorated spot, and on one side you see a part where the rows change direction. Here we found impressions of what could be the legs of a chaise lounge, where two or three people could sit and eat. It’s like the owner went through the room and decided where his couches should be, and then the mosaic was laid to mark off those areas.”
More rooms in massive home to be discovered
He is sure that there are more rooms to be discovered, he said, though he hastened to add that this will only be when no one lives in the vicinity anymore. “We haven’t yet found the private living quarters,” he pointed out, “though they could have been on second floor that is no more.”
In an IAA press release, the dig director described the villa as luxurious, with the mosaic-paved courtyard showing signs of columns and remains of fresco wall paintings. “Thankfully, the main central panel of the mosaic was preserved. The figures, many similar to the figures in the earlier mosaics, comprise fish and winged creatures,” he said.
The most recent find, like its earlier counterparts, was carefully removed so that the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center could be constructed over the fourth-century home while preserving the newfound treasure.
It is expected that the museum will take two years to complete, at which time the floors will be returned so that visitors can see these archaeological treasures from the Roman period on the site.
Over a million people have already seen the first ancient floor, because it has traveled the globe since 2010. It has been exhibited in some of the world’s most prestigious museums, including the Louvre, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. It finally returned home last April and is now being shown in Israel for the first time at The National Maritime Museum in Haifa.