December 2, 2010

The Roman Mosaic from Lod, Isreal

I've come to really admire Roman floor mosaics. In Croatia, I kept searching and searching for "The Punishment of Dirce" in the city of Pula. I returned again and again to the spot listed in the guidebook after giving up hope of ever locating it. I asked a number of people. Some didn't know; some pointed to a sign on the Ulica Sergijevaca that pointed west, alongside a sign that indicated the location of the Chapel of St. Mary of Formosa. The latter I could find; as to the former, I was lost.

One woman told me the mosaic was hard to find. She directed me up a small street and told me to take a left. Then another left. She told me I would see a sign. Eventually, I located it behind a makeshift car park beside the entrance to an apartment complex. A corrugated iron roof protected it from the elements. It was sunken into the ground. The sign the woman had mentioned was on a concrete wall posted at a height of 10 feet above the ground.

The mosaic was worth the hunt. I had seen a photo of it in the archeological musem after I had given up searching the first time. It convinced me to search again.

I first became aware of Roman floor mosaics in Jordan on visits to Jerash and Madba. In the latter town, I was introduced to the Madba mosiac map, the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land, as described by Wikipedia. The church in which it is located, the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George, is not alone in boasting fine mosiacs, as hundreds are scattered throughout the town.

Back in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is hosting a Roman mosaic from Lod. Discovered in 1996, the mosaic floor was only recently uncovered and displayed, in situ, in 2009. The exhibit at the Met is the first time it is being exhibited to the general public. It's tucked away at the back of the Greek and Roman galleries, and is well worth a stop if you find yourself in the neighborhood on a vist to the museum.

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