Tag Archives: animals

Bird Mosaic at Caesarea

Caesarea Maritima was a city and harbor built on the ruins of Straton’s Tower by Herod the Great about 25–13 BCE. It’s a very popular site, the archaeological park lies on the Mediterranean coast of Israel about halfway between the cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa. The city of Caesarea was described in detail by the 1st century Roman Jewish historian Josephus.

The city became the seat of the Roman praefecti soon after its founding. In 1961 Italian archaeologists excavating the theater found a stone inscription with the name of Pontius Pilate, according to the New Testament the Roman Governor responsible for ordering that Jesus be put to death, the first archaeological evidence that Pilate existed.

While visiting the Herodian, Roman, Byzantine and Crusader ruins of Caesarea make sure to see the nearby aqueduct and Bird mosaic, a large rectangular mosaic ‘rug’ on the floor of an extravagant palace first uncovered in 1950 but only conserved and viewable by the public in 2004. It’s a tapestry of the land of Israel and includes fruit trees and animals native to Israel (lion, tiger, bear, wild boar, ibex, dog, elephant, deer and bull) bordering 120 round medallions, each of which contains a different bird.

The owner of the palace is unknown but was obviously extremely wealthy. Built in the sixth century, the palace included a hall with the mosaic floor, columns, an open roofed yard and a second floor. The findings indicate an exceptionally developed water and drainage system that included inclined floors, water canals and recessed wells.

Mosaics at Inn of Good Samaritan

On the main highway <1> between Jerusalem and Jericho is a site identified with the Inn of the Good Samaritan (mentioned in the parable in Luke 10:25-37). Remains from the first century BCE to the first century CE were found throughout the area. Abundant finds from this period include pottery, clay lamps, glass vessels, metal implements and numerous coins attesting to intensive activity that befits an inn for Jewish and then Christian pilgrims and travelers making their way between Galilee and Jerusalem.

Byzantine artifacts

In the Ottoman period, a rectangular structure was built over the southern wall of the Crusader fortress. This building underwent numerous alterations and was restored after being damaged during WWI. It served as a roadside inn guarding the Jerusalem-Jericho road from attacks by brigands as it had for centuries.

Since the parable of the good Samaritan includes men of three faiths, the newly opened museum has chosen to display the mosaic floors and other artifacts found in churches and Jewish and Samaritan synagogues in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. It is fascinating to see the similarities and differences among the images displayed in mosaic.

Mosaic Khirbet Huriya

The art of mosaic began in the Greek world around the 4th C BCE and reached Israel during the Hellenistic period. It continued to develop and by the end of the Second Temple and Roman periods simple, plain and geometric mosaics became more ornate, complex with representations of flora and fauna, people, instruments, religious symbols. It became the chief means of paving public buildings, private homes, bath houses, churches and synagogues.

Mosaic floor

Places Nearby

Take the cutoff to Maale Adumim to visit the Martyrius monastery (there is a combined entrance ticket; note you need to phone in advance), the largest in the Judean desert. Inside the complex the main church was paved with colorful mosaics in geometric patterns interspersed with pictures of animals; the refectory floor, discovered intact, is covered with mosaics in geometrical designs and the kitchen was also paved with mosaics.

On the opposite side of the road along Wadi Qelt visit one of Herod’s fortresses, named after his mother, Cypros. There are 2 bath houses with remains of mosaic floors.

If you are planning a trip down to the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi don’t forget to take a few minutes to check out the mosaic floor in the synagogue (your entrance ticket to the nature reserve is good for the antiquities park). The synagogue has a detailed 18 line inscription in Hebrew and Aramaic including the 12 signs of the zodiac (indicated by their names but not depicted graphically as in most other synagogues of the same period, eg. Tiberia, Bet Alfa, Tzippori). The central hall has 4 birds within a medallion, peacocks grasping a bunch of grapes, a menora and geometric patterns.