Kiryat Gat mosaic

The rare mosaic carefully restored. (Nikki Davidov/IAA)

Time and again, the Land of Israel reveals its hidden treasures testifying to its rich history. This time, an ancient mosaic with rare images was found in Kiryat Gat.

A 1,500 year old mosaic depicting a map with Egyptian streets and buildings was revealed by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) on Tuesday. The rare chance discovery, like many other archaeological finds in Israel, happened during a construction project for an industrial park in Kiryat Gat.

The extraordinary mosaic served as the floor of a church dating back to the Byzantine period. The remained of the church’s structure did not survive the ravages of time. Archaeologists Sa‘ar Ganor and Dr. Rina Avner of the IAA said that “the appearance of buildings on mosaic floors is a rare phenomenon in Israel. The buildings are arranged along a main colonnaded street of a city, in a sort of ancient map. A Greek inscription preserved alongside one of the buildings exposed in the mosaic indicates that the place which is depicted is the settlement Chortaso, in Egypt. According to Christian tradition, the prophet Habakkuk was buried in Chortaso. The appearance of this Egyptian city on the floor of the public building in Kiryat Gat might allude to the origin of the church’s congregation.”

Two sections of the mosaic were preserved. In one segment, animals such as a rooster, deer and birds and a special goblet with red fruits are portrayed on. Ganor explained that “The artist utilized tesserae of seventeen different colors in preparing the mosaic. The investment in the raw materials and their quality are the best ever discovered in Israel”.

A Nile River landscape in Egypt consisting of a boat with a rolled-up sail, streets and buildings is depicted on the second mosaic. The buildings are portrayed in detail and in three dimensions, and they have two–three stories, balconies and galleries, roofs, roof tiles and windows.

The mosaic was removed from the site for the purpose of conservation and was recently returned to its permanent location in the industrial park. It will be available for public viewing on October 1 in honor of the Sukkot holiday.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel

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