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October 1, 2015 7:53 am

Rare Church Mosaic, Uncovered by Israeli Schoolchildren, to Go on Display

avatar by Jonathan Benedek / Tazpit News Agency

A 1,500-year-old church mosaic discovered in Kiryat Gat. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

A 1,500-year-old church mosaic discovered in Kiryat Gat. Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority.

Approximately two years ago, an extremely unique 1,500-year-old mosaic, which comprised part of the floor of an abandoned church from the Byzantine era, was discovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), together with the help of local schoolchildren.

“There are very few mosaics with such architectural depictions on mosaic floors,” IAA archaeologist Dr. Rina Avner told Tazpit News Agency. “This is the first such example of depictions of main churches in various cities on the Nile.”

The mosaic depicts a number of churches and other buildings in the form of an ancient map. A Greek inscription indicates that the mosaic is a small map of the Egyptian settlement of Chortaso, which, according to Christian tradition, is the burial site of the biblical prophet, Habakkuk.

The mosaic will be on display for the public from today (October 1), in the Kiryat Gat Industrial Park.

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The discovery of the mosaic in Kiryat Gat apparently demonstrates that there was aesthetic influence from Israel to communities in Trans-Jordan. “The mosaic sits well with the family of the seventh century Trans-Jordanian mosaics,” Dr. Avner told Tazpit.

“But this mosaic (in Kiryat Gat) is dated earlier [than the ones in Trans-Jordan], to the first quarter of the sixth century, which indicates that there was probably an artistic influence in this pattern coming from Israel and crossing the Jordan River to later churches there.”

Dr. Avner suggested to Tazpit that there may have been some kind of relationship between the church’s congregation and the Christian communities in Egypt. “But I don’t know whether it’s identification, or whether it’s simply holding common beliefs or traditions,” he said. “I don’t know if there will ever be a clear answer.”

Sa’ar Ganor, another archaeologist from the IAA who was working with Dr. Avner on the excavation, commented on the unique usage of a number of different colors in the mosaic. “The artist utilized tesserae of 17 different colors in preparing the mosaic,” said Ganor. “The investment in the raw materials and their quality are the best ever discovered in Israel.”

Avner told Tazpit that she was not only amazed “at the number of colors, but the application of the colors in various technological methods that give the illusion of light and day in such a persuasive way.”

Avner also referred to the impressive use of shade and color in the finer details in the mosaic. “You see the usage of very tiny stones of various colors, as well as the usage of light and shades in the different shapes of the stones. The expressions of the different animals on the mosaic were also impressive.”


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