The Lod Mosaic has come home to Israel at last, after a decade-long world tour.
In 1996, construction workers in the Israeli town of Lod were widening a street when they discovered tile. The Israel Antiquities Authority was brought in, and the find was carefully uncovered. It turned out to be one of the largest and best-preserved mosaic floors ever found. Vibrant with animals, fish, birds and two Roman ships, it covers nearly seventeen hundred square feet. At the time, it was displayed in place to the public for a single weekend before being reburied to protect it while funding was hunted down for its conservation. It was too great a treasure to risk.
In 2009, the Leon Levy Foundation funded it being re-unearthed and carefully restored by professional conservators. There was no museum in Israel that could house it whole, so for more than ten years, the Lod Mosaic toured the world. It was displayed in New York, in Paris, in St. Petersburg.
And all the while, a home was being built for it. The Shelby White and Leon Levy Mosaic Lod Archaeological Center opened at the start of June, built specifically to house the Lod Mosaic and other Roman finds from the area.
The Lod Mosaic once was the floor of an affluent villa, when Lod was known as the Roman city of Diospolis (God’s City) in the Third or Fourth Century. Many of the animals adorning it would have been exotic to the residents. Lions, elephants, giraffes, peacocks, seals and whales are shown alongside many kinds of fish and fowl. There’s a particularly beautiful panel showing a lioness taking down a gazelle in the hunt – the artist was not only very skilled, but probably had seen the event with their own eyes.
The museum’s directors hope that it will help to bring the population of Lod, which is mixed Israeli/Palestinian, together, as well as making the small city a draw for tourists.