Bible and archaeology news
A colorful Roman mosaic from the second or third century C.E. was unearthed at Caesarea National Park in Israel. The mosaic was excavated by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the Caesarea Development Corporation in partnership with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
The coastal site of Caesarea Maritima lies 30 miles north of Tel Aviv. The city was built as a major port of trade by King Herod the Great, who named it after the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus. Constructed between 22 and 10/9 B.C.E., parts of this magnificent Roman city still stand today—attracting over 700,000 tourists a year.
The archaeologists found the mosaic while excavating a sixth-century C.E. Byzantine building that may have been part of the city’s agora, which is like an ancient shopping center. Dating to the second or third century C.E., the mosaic actually belonged to an earlier Roman-period building that was underneath the Byzantine structure.
Measuring about 11.5 by 26 feet and consisting of thousands of colorful tesserae (mosaic tiles), the vibrant mosaic depicts three men wearing togas and features a Greek inscription.
“Who are they? That depends on what the building was used for, which is not yet clear,” said Dr. Peter Gendelman and Dr. Uzi ‘Ad, the IAA excavation directors, in an IAA press release. “If the mosaic was part of a mansion, the figures may have been the owners. If this was a public building, they might have represented the donors of the mosaic or members of the city council.”
The Roman moaic and Byzantine building were discovered during the reconstruction of a Crusaders-era entrance bridge to the site. The effort is part of a larger project to create a promenade to connect the town of Jisr a-Zarqa to Caesarea National Park. The IAA Conservation Administration plans to ensure that the mosaic is preserved. Additionally, the entrance bridge will be reconfigured to allow the public to view the mosaic.
Guy Swersky, deputy and acting chairman of the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation, which has invested around $27.5 million USD to the project, commented on the significance of these recent finds:
“Old Caesarea never stops surprising, fascinating and thrilling us, time after time revealing slices of history of worldwide significance. This amazing mosaic is a unique find in Israel. This is especially true considering where it was found—in the northern part of the park, in an area that has hardly been excavated.”
Amanda Laughead is an intern at the Biblical Archaeology Society.
Robert Jehu Bull (1920–2013)
Former excavation director of Caesarea Maritima
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