|A Preliminary Plan for the Conservation and Development of the Lod Mosaic|
|Orderer||Israel Antiquities Authority|
Arch. Eran Hamo Project manager|
Arch. Yaara Shaltiel
Arch. Ram Shoeff
Landscape Arch. Sivan Ornai
The Lod mosaic was excavated in 1996 by Miriam Avissar and it is part of a salvage excavation that was conducted on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Municipality of Lod, which wanted to widen He-Halutz Street. The mosaic dates to the Roman period, to the end of the third or the beginning of the fourth century CE. The mosaic was covered over with soil at the conclusion of the excavation after funds were not found for the conservation and development of the site.
A designated contribution that was received by the Israel Antiquities Authority has resulted in a proposal for the conservation and development of the site. Thus the aim of the project is to design a program for the preservation of the mosaic and its presentation.
Location of the Site
The site of the mosaic is located in the eastern part of Lod, next to the entrance to the city from Ginnaton Junction. This intersection is easily reached from Ben Gurion airport and two of the country’s principal highways: Highway No. 1, which links Tel Aviv with Jerusalem and Highway No. 6, which connects the north of the country with the south. The site is bordered by two streets: He-Halutz Street that leads to the marketplace and Ha-Yasmin Street which leads to the city’s historic center. The site is situated along the edge of the city, at the back of a rundown residential neighborhood. There are no public buildings next to the site and it does not appear in the city’s master plan as a resource worthy of future development. Its location close to national highways makes it easily accessible and also facilitates turning it into a site that will be of interest to the entire country. In addition, its location also makes it possible to incorporate it along a visitor’s route that will include a number of historic sites in the city. The development of the site is likely to have a positive effect on the future development of the adjacent neighborhood.
Description of the Archaeological Find
The mosaic (c. 9 x 17 m) was excavated within the boundaries of the hall and only a few stones were preserved from the walls that originally delimited the room. It is not known who ordered the construction of the mosaic or what the function was of the house and the hall. The excavator has raised the possibility that based on the size of the hall it may have been part of a public building. The mosaic is composed of polychrome carpets in which a variety of mammals, birds, fish, flora and even sailing vessels are depicted in detail. The polychrome carpets are surrounded by white mosaic carpets. The design of the mosaic was influenced by the mosaics that are found in North Africa and many of the secondary motifs are present in the Antioch mosaics. Unlike other mosaics of the period, no humans are depicted in the Lod mosaic. The archaeological research at the site is still incomplete, and even though the city is mentioned in historical sources, so far, there is no other archaeological information about Lod in the Roman period.
A Valuation of the Site
The quality of the mosaic’s construction, content and state of preservation are extraordinary. It is among the most impressive mosaics that have ever been discovered in the country in general and from the Roman period in particular. Its artistic quality is manifested in the size and shades of its tesserae and in the ability of the artisan who crafted it. Most of the mosaic is well-preserved even though most of the walls of the hall have not survived. The mosaic contents allude to cultural ties with North Africa and knowledge of the fauna and flora that are characteristic of that region. The depictions of the boats augment our knowledge with regards to sailing and maritime commerce during the Roman period.
The Goals of the Planning
• The mosaic will be exhibited in situ for the general public and the residents of the area.
• The site will be a landmark at the entrance to the city from the direction of Ginnaton Junction. When other parts of the historic city are developed the site can serve as a jumping off point for tours in the city.
The Proposed Plan
The mosaic will be presented in the theoretical context of an archaeological excavation. In order to present the mosaic in this respect the development of the site will be laid out along the lines of an excavation grid (5 x 5 m) and will include area cells for future research, display, landscape development and for the different visitors’ services that are needed. The development activity will be done in the squares according to the grid, whereby the base of each square is separated from the squares adjacent to it. In this way research considerations are taken into account and it will be possible to open almost the entire square for excavation without harming the function of the site. The planning will carefully distinguish between the stratum with the remains and the archaeological activity on the one hand and the modern installations that are necessary at the site on the other.
The excavation process will connect the ancient habitation stratum with the modern level. As much of the excavation as possible will be done in cooperation with the local school system in the form of a study dig that will be accompanied by professional supervision. A building that is owned by the state stands next to the site. If it is possible the building will be used as a center for social/community activities. The site will be run from a small visitor’s center that will be erected next to the mosaic in which souvenirs will be sold. When there are no ongoing activities those parts of the site that include very sensitive artifacts will be closed to the public.
After all of the required funding has been raised, the mosaic will be uncovered and removed from the site to the conservation laboratory. The conservation process will be carried out over the course of many months during which a section of the mosaic will be on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. During that period of time the planning and implementation work will go forward, at the conclusion of which the mosaic will be returned to its original place and the site will be opened to the public.
Yaara Shaltiel, 2008
The Lod Mosaic web site
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel
To view the figures, click on the figure caption