Magnificent Mosaic from Byzantine Period Unearthed in Israel

A team of archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has discovered a spectacular, large 1,500-year-old mosaic at an archaeological site in Kibbutz Bet Qama.

1,500-year-old mosaic found at an archaeological site in Kibbutz Bet Qama, Israel (Yael Yolovitch)

1,500-year-old mosaic found at an archaeological site in Kibbutz Bet Qama, Israel (Yael Yolovitch)

The team headed by Dr Rina Avner has uncovered remains of a settlement dating to Byzantine period (4-6th centuries CE).

Among other finds, the site has yielded a main building – a large hall about 12 m long x 8.5 m wide.

“Its ceiling was apparently covered with roof tiles. The hall’s impressive opening and the breathtaking mosaic that adorns its floor suggest that the structure was a public building,” the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement.

“The well-preserved mosaic is decorated with geometric patterns and its corners are enhanced with 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 that are known from this period. However, what makes this mosaic unique is the large number of motifs that were incorporated in one carpet.”

In front of the building, the archaeologists have also unearthed pools and a system of channels and pipes used to convey water. Steps have been found in one of the pools and its walls were treated with fresco.

Detail of a 1,500-year-old mosaic found at an archaeological site in Kibbutz Bet Qama, Israel (Yael Yolovitch)

Detail of a 1,500-year-old mosaic found at an archaeological site in Kibbutz Bet Qama, Israel (Yael Yolovitch)

The team is still trying to determine the purpose of the impressive public building and the pools whose construction required considerable economic resources.

“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, a public building and pools surrounded by farmland. Presumably one of the structures served as an inn for travelers who visited the place.”

Detail of a 1,500-year-old mosaic found at an archaeological site in Kibbutz Bet Qama, Israel (Yael Yolovitch)

Detail of a 1,500-year-old mosaic found at an archaeological site in Kibbutz Bet Qama, Israel (Yael Yolovitch)

“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 were exposed, and Nahal Shoval, recently excavated prior to the construction of the Cross-Israel Highway, where ritual baths were uncovered. Noteworthy among the Christian settlements are the churches at Abu Hof in Lahav Forest and the monastery at Givot Bar.”