A 1,700 year-old mosaic was uncovered by archaeologists in the Israeli city of Lod on the site where a fancy Roman villa once stood.

The colorful discovery was made during excavations last month by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in preparation for the construction of a visitors’ center that will exhibit mosaics previously discovered at the same site.

In 1996, road workers happened upon a mosaic floor at the entrance to Lod, the city hosting Ben-Gurion International Airport. The subsequent IAA excavation exposed a fourth century CE villa with a large, luxurious mosaic-paved reception room, an internal columned courtyard with mosaics, and a water system.

The Lod mosaic uncovered in 1996 and exhibited worldwide. Photo by Niki Davidov/Israel Antiquities Authority

“We found evidence for Mediterranean luxury that characterized the Roman Empire, including attributes such as fresco wall paintings,” said Amir Gorzalczany, director of the current excavation.

The new discovery suggests there was an additional reception room next to the hall uncovered in 1996.

“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. A fairly similar mosaic was found in the past in Jerusalem on the Mount Zion slopes,” said Gorzalczany, adding that this type of mosaic is better known in the Western part of the Roman Empire.

The new section of the Lod mosaic exposed recently. Photo by Niki Davidov/Israel Antiquities Authority

 

The archeologists noticed rectangular marks on the new floor mosaic, which may have been caused by couches on which guests reclined during banquets. “These marks are common in similar villas and are an indication of the use of the space in the reception halls,” explained Gorzalczany.

Uncovering the mosaic. Photo by Amir Gorzalczany/Israel Antiquities Authority

The previously discovered mosaics have been exhibited in museums including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre in Paris and the Cini Foundation in Venice.

They will be displayed permanently in the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center, a joint initiative of Shelby White and the Leon Levy Foundation, the Lod municipality, the Lod Economic Development Corporation and the Israel Antiquities Authority. The building is planned to open within two years.