Lod Mosaic at the Penn Museum

The Central portion of the extraordinary Lod Mosaic, found in Israel in 1996. © Israel Antiquities Authority

One of the best preserved of the more larger Roman mosaic floors was discovered in 1996 during the construction of a highway on the outskirts of Lod, just south east of Tel Aviv. Not only is this mosaic floor in excellent condition, it is beautifully crafted and detailed. And, the subject matter makes it all the more remarkable; for example, giraffe and rhinoceros were rarely depicted. The photograph above is just one portion of this extraordinary mosaic pavement, and measures about 13 square feet in size – the entire pavement measures 50 feet by 27 feet.

The present day town of Lod was Lydda in ancient times. During the Jewish War Lydda was destroyed by the Romans, but it was refounded by Hadrian as Diopolis, and later in 200 AD given the status of Roman colony. Excavations have not revealed thus far what the building was. The lack of inscriptions indicate that it was probably a private villa as opposed to a public building. Coins and pottery found during excavations date to the third and fourth centuries AD, and suggest that the mosaic was created around 300 AD.

The Israel Antiquities Authority and the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center have produced an exemplary website that details the discovery, excavation, preservation and conservation, as well as the lifting of the mosaic floors. Various pages on the website have a good collection of photographs and video clips; so if you have ever wanted to see how these mosaic floors are lifted, you can see it being done on the website. … The Lod Mosaic Website.

Christopher S. Lightfoot, Curator in the Department of Greek and Roman Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, has written an interesting article on the significance of this extraordinary mosaic: The Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel

Explore the entire pavement … click here.

Where is the Lod Mosaic?

After being lifted in 2009, the Lod Mosaic toured various museums in the United States of America until 2013 when it went to the Louvre in Paris. The mosaic will be on display at the Altes Museum on MuseumInsel in Berlin from 18 October 2013 to mid May 2014, then at Waddesdon Manor in Aylesbury, from 5 June to 2 November 2014 (exhibition review). The mosaic will then travel to St Petersburg (19 December 2014 – 25 April 2015, under the title Unfading Colours: A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel; or Немеркнущие краски: Римская мозаика из Лода, Израиль) before returning to Israel, where it will go on permanent display in the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center in Lod, 15 km south east of Tel Aviv.