A rare 1,500-year-old mosaic discovered in Israel that unusually depicts a map with streets and buildings will be revealed for the first time tomorrow.
Painstakingly restored, the mosaic measures about 3.5 meters (11.4 feet) by 3.5 meters and was found two years ago in an industrial park in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Gat.
According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, it adorned the floor of a church dating to the Byzantine period. The church did not survive, but the mosaic was excavated and moved for restoration.
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Intriguingly, the artwork shows buildings arranged along a main colonnaded street of a city. Buildings are portrayed in detail and in three dimensions, and have two–three stories, balconies and galleries, roof tiles and windows.
“The appearance of buildings on mosaic floors is a rare phenomenon in Israel,” the archaeologists involved in the excavation, Sa’ar Ganor and Rina Avner of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement.
A closer inspection revealed a Greek inscription alongside one of the buildings. It pointed to the place depicted in the mosaic: the settlement Chortaso, in Egypt.
“According to Christian tradition, the prophet Habakkuk was buried there. 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,” Ganor and Avner said.
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They noted the artist used tesserae (tiles) of 17 different colors in preparing the elaborate mosaic.
Two sections of the mosaic were preserved. One shows animals such as a rooster, deer and birds and a goblet with red fruits, the other depicts the Egyptian settlement, complete with streets, buildings and a Nile River landscape boasting a boat with a rolled-up sail.
“The investment in the raw materials and their quality are the best ever discovered in Israel,” Ganor said.
The mosaic has now been returned to its original place in the industrial park, where it will be unveiled during the “Factories from Within” festival.