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Byzantine-era mosaic map restored in Israel

Although the Byzantine-era church that existed about 1500 years ago in southern Israel no longer exists, its mosaic floor has now been restored and shows a map revealing a scene of streets and buildings from an Egyptian town.

Photo by Nikki Davidov, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
Photo by Nikki Davidov, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced last week that the mosaic, which measures about 3.5 metres by 3.5 metres, was found about two years ago in the town of Qiryat Gat. After undergoing restoration, the mosaic has been restored and is now on public display.

Sa‘ar Ganor and Dr. Rina Avner, archaeologits working for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement, “The appearance of buildings on mosaic floors is a rare phenomenon in Israel. The buildings are arranged along a main colonnaded street of a city, in a sort of ancient map. A Greek inscription preserved alongside one of the buildings exposed in the mosaic indicates that the place which is depicted is the settlement Chortaso, in Egypt. According to Christian tradition, the prophet Habakkuk was buried in Chortaso. The appearance of this Egyptian city on the floor of the public building in Qiryat Gat might allude to the origin of the church’s congregation”.

The mosaic pavement was part of the floor of a church that did not survive. Two sections of the mosaic were preserved; animals such as a rooster, deer and birds and a special goblet with red fruits are portrayed on one part of the pavement. According to Ganor, “The artist utilized tesserae of seventeen different colors in preparing the mosaic. The investment in the raw materials and their quality are the best ever discovered in Israel”.

A Nile River landscape in Egypt consisting of a boat with a rolled-up sail, streets and buildings is depicted on the second section. The buildings are portrayed in detail and in three dimensions, and they have two–three stories, balconies and galleries, roofs, roof tiles and windows.

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