New Byzantine mosaic brings colour from the past

A spectacular and colourful mosaic dating from the Byzantine period (4th–6th centuries CE) was exposed in recent weeks in the fields of Kibbutz Bet Qama, Israel.  The mosaic was discovered during an archaeological excavation carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to the construction of an interchange between Ma’ahaz and Devira Junction.
The main building at the site under investigation was a large hall 12m long by 8.5m wide with an expensive tiled roof. The hall’s impressive  mosaic that covers the floor suggests the structure was a public building – designed to impress the population with the power of Byzantium.
The well-preserved mosaic is decorated with geometric patterns and each corner contains details such as amphorae (jars used to transport wine), a pair of peacocks and a pair of doves pecking at grapes on a tendril. These are common designs known from this period, but what makes this mosaic unique is the large number of motifs that were incorporated in a single floor mosaic.
A 1,500-year-old mosaic floor was uncovered during excavations near Kibbutz Beit Kama . Image Credit: Yael Yolovitch
A 1,500-year-old mosaic floor was uncovered during excavations near Kibbutz Beit Kama . Image Credit: Yael Yolovitch

An extensive site

Pools and a system of channels and pipes between were discovered in front of the building. Steps were exposed in one of the pools and its walls were covered in a painted fresco.
Archaeologists from the Antiquities Authority are still trying to determine the purpose of the public building and the pools which would have required considerable economic capital for what looks like a non functional purpose.
The site, which was located along an ancient road that ran north from Be’er Sheva, seems to have consisted of a large estate that included a church, residential buildings and storerooms, a large cistern and a public building and pools surrounded by farmland. Presumably one of the structures served as an inn for travellers who visited the place.
During the Byzantine period Jewish and Christian settlements in the region were located next to each other. Two of the nearby Jewish settlements are Horbat Rimon, where a synagogue and ritual bath (miqwe) were exposed recently and the Nahal Shoval site, again recently excavated prior to the construction of the Cross-Israel Highway, where further ritual baths were uncovered. Among the exceptional Christian settlements are the churches at Abu Hof in Lahav Forest and the monastery at Givot Bar.
Source: Israel Antiquities Authority


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