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.

Lod Mosaic at the Penn Museum

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

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.

Learn More About the Lod Mosaic

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

Where is the Lod Mosaic?

After being lifted in 2009, the Lod Mosaic toured various museums in the United States of America and Europe, including the Louvre in Paris, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Art in Miami, and Waddesdon Manor in England.

After this international tour the mosaic returned to Israel, where it is due to go on permanent display in the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center in Lod, 15 km south east of Tel Aviv. Until that centre is ready, part of the Lod mosaic is on display in the National Maritime Museum in Haifa. Construction of this new facility hit an extraordinary delay.

During archaeological excavations in preparation for building the Lod Mosaic Centre, archaeologists uncovered another equally exquisite mosaic in the Roman villa. The new finds raise questions about how wealthy the owner of the private villa was. And, like the first Lod mosaic to be excavated, the latest also includes representations of fish and fantasy animals. And, just as curiously with the first mosaic floor, there are no images of human figures. Read more about this new discovery in Lod in the Times of Israel.