The ‘Lod Mosaic’ was excavated in 1996 by Miriam Avissar, during Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) salvage excavations initiated by the Lod Municipality, due to a development project on Halutz Street. The mosaic is dated to the end of the Late Roman period (end of the 3nd – beginning of the 4th centuries CE). The mosaic is exceptional in its construction quality, content, and preservation. It is the most impressive mosaic found to date in Israel, and is one of the most impressive Roman mosaics in the world. The small size of the tesserae, the tonal richness, and the delicate motifs testify to its uniqueness and to the talented artist who created it. The mosaic, most of which was preserved, is found at the heart of a prestigious neighborhood of Diospolis (City of God – the name for Lod during the Roman period). Indications for the wealth of this neighborhood can be found in many other mosaics found in the vicinity of the Lod Mosaic over the years. Two of these were found by Shavit and Rosenberger in 1990. Some of these mosaics, including the Lod Mosaic, were moved to the IAA laboratories at the Rockefeller Museum, where they were stabilized on plaster sheets that would preserve them and allow their return to Lod to be exhibited. While an IAA team worked on the removal of the Lod Mosaic from the site in order to preserve it and send it to museums around the world, another domestic complex was unearthed next to it. The mosaics in this complex were as spectacular as the Lod Mosaic, although their state of preservation was not as good.
The Israeli Institute of Archaeology experts believe that the rest of the mosaics in this area should be unearthed and displayed as one complex in the museum planned at this location. The central and accessible location of Lod and the mosaic site are the reason for our recommendation to turn the site into a national museum for the mosaics of the Holy Land.
The Lod Mosaic
The mosaic dimensions are over 17 m long and 9 m wide, and it is composed of several components, within which seven decorated bands can be discerned. The northern-most band includes scenes of predators hunting, fish, an impressive peacock, a basket filled with items symbolizing wealth, and other icons. Each scene is located inside a hexagonal whose frame was designed as a colorful braid.
The second band is the central one and includes a variety of terrestrial and aquatic animals. These include an elephant, a giraffe, lions, leopards, a tiger, an oryx, and a hare. The central scene in the south of this unit depicts two leopards hanging on to an impressive amphora.
The third unit shows rich and colorful marine life. The artisan who created this mosaic was familiar with marine life and could depict it in detail. Two ships are also depicted in this scene, one of them in a bad state of preservation. The many details of the well-preserved sailboat demonstrate that the artisan was also familiar with seafaring (or consulted seafaring experts). The depictions of the ships enrich modern research of seamanship and marine trade during the Roman period.
The fourth unit is shaped as a strip separating the components of the mosaic. A beautiful amphora is positioned in the center, with ivy branches growing from it. Images of birds appear next to the branches.
The fifth unit is dedicated to birds which were depicted with great care for detail and a proper distinction between the different species and their characteristics.
The sixth unit includes metopes (decorative elements) bordered by a braided pattern. A bird, fish or terrestrial animal appears in each of the metopes. The southern part of this unit is damaged and incomplete. This unit, as well as the fifth one to the north of it, were damaged by a later wall that was built on top of them. The builders of this wall probably dug its foundation trench and hit the mosaic without knowing it existed.
The last unit is positioned east of the second unit. Only was only partially preserved and it seems to depict ornate amphorae bordered by a unique and colorful frame.
The preservation of the mosaic is very impressive, especially when taking into account that it was a floor of a structure from which hardly any wall survived. The lack of walls makes it hard to determine the nature of this structure, though it was probably a villa of a wealthy family, as was customary in the Roman world.
Several mosaic-producing schools were active in the ancient Roman world. Their sources of inspiration were varied; one of the best known were the landscapes of North Africa. Many of the sub-models in the Lod Mosaic can be found in the mosaics of the city of Antioch (today Antakya, Turkey), in which many impressive mosaics were found. In contrast to other contemporary mosaics, the Lod Mosaic contains no human or mythological figures.