Thirteen years after one of the most beautiful mosaics ever to be seen in the country was covered over, the Israel Antiquities Authority
, in cooperation with the municipality of Lod and its residents, is beginning an archaeological excavation that will re-expose the mosaic, once and for all. Some 30,000 people from all over the country visited the site during one weekend when the mosaic was on display to the public.
The 1,700 year old mosaic floor, which is one of the most magnificent and largest mosaics ever revealed in Israel, was first uncovered in the city of Lod in 1996. The mosaic is a real archaeological gem and extraordinarily well-preserved. It covers an area of approximately 180 square meters and is composed of colored carpets that depict in detail mammals, birds, fish, a variety of flora and the sailing and merchant ships that were used at the time. The purpose of the building in which the mosaic floor was placed is not known.
This impressive discovery, the product of an excavation that was directed by archaeologist Miriam Avissar, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to the widening of Ha-Halutz Street by the municipality of Lod, caused a wave of excitement in Israel. The discovery was widely reported in the media and tens of thousands of visitors to the site were amazed. At the end of the excavation, the mosaic floor was covered in order to protect it from the damages caused by man and time until funding is available and a decision as to how to best present it to the public is made.
A recent, highly generous gift from the Leon Levy Foundation and Shelby White - Chairman of the Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority, will enable the IAA to excavate, conserve and establish the Lod Mosaic Archaeological Center on the site.
The conservation and development of the site will boost tourism and help change the image of the city the mosaic is located in the eastern part of Lod, next to the entrance to the city from Ginnaton Junction. This junction is easily reached from Ben Gurion airport and from the countrys two main highways: Highway 1, which links Tel Aviv with Jerusalem, and Highway 6, which connects the north of the country with the south. The site is located between two streets: Ha-Halutz Street which leads to the market place and Struma Street, which leads to the citys historic center. The proximity of the site to the countrys main transportation arteries makes it highly accessible and will facilitate turning it into a site that is of interest to the entire country. The municipality, in conjunction with the Israel Antiquities Authority, plans to integrate it into a tourism circuit that will include a number of historic sites in the city.
Prior to the announcement of the start of work in the area, constructive discussions took place between the residents of Lod, the municipality and the Israel Antiquities Authority. Because of the need to conserve it, the mosaic must be removed from the area and taken to the laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority where the conservation work will be carried out. Consequently, some residents of Lod were anxious that the mosaic would not be returned to its site.
The Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Mr. Shuka Dorfman, promised the residents that the work of exposing the mosaic will be done in complete cooperation with the public, and that the mosaic will be returned to its original location and the place will be prepared as an archaeological center for the benefit of the general public and the many tourists that are expected to visit the site.
The conservation and development work are scheduled to take approximately two years. During that period, and because of the rarity and exceptional quality of the find, a section of the mosaic will be sent on exhibit to the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. During this time the planning and implementation work will carried out at the site in Lod, at the end of which the mosaic will be returned to its permanent home and the site will be opened to the public.