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Posts Tagged ‘gaza’

Photo: Ahmed Zakot.
A Palestinian farmer unearthed a Byzantine floor mosaic beneath his olive grove.

We keep learning that beautiful discoveries can still be made, even in mundane settings. Perhaps you have discovered yellowed letters your parents wrote to each other when courting. Perhaps there was an antique bottle inside a wall when you renovated.

Such items can be exciting, but it’s hard to beat the discovery a farmer in today’s stumbled upon.

Elaine Velie reports at Hyperallergic, “Salman al-Nabahin, a farmer from Gaza’s Bureij refugee camp, was trying to plant new olive trees in his orchard but something underneath the soil was standing in his way. He investigated for three months, digging out the soil with his son until they unearthed a stunningly well-preserved Byzantine floor mosaic.

“Al-Nabahin told Reuters that he searched the internet to asses the mosaic’s origins. An archaeologist from the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem, René Elter, later confirmed the work as a Byzantine mosaic, placing the mosaic between the fifth and seventh centuries CE. …

“ ‘Never have mosaic floors of this finesse, this precision in the graphics and richness of the colors been discovered in the Gaza Strip,’ Elter [told the Associated Press], adding that more research is needed to determine the work’s intended function.

“The Palestinian Ministry of Culture stated that investigation into the mosaic was still in its early stages and a team of national experts would partner with experts at the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem to research the work.

“Gaza is situated on a thriving ancient trade route, and dozens of important archaeological discoveries have been uncovered there in the last few years. The recently revealed mosaic, however, sits less than a mile away from the Gaza-Israel barrier, which Elten said puts the discovery in ‘grave danger.’ …

“ ‘I see it as a treasure, dearer than a treasure,’ al-Nabahin told Reuters. ‘It isn’t personal, it belongs to every Palestinian.’ “

Sarah Kuta at the Smithsonian adds, “Now, archaeologists with the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the French Archaeology School are hard at work studying the flooring to learn more about its ‘secrets and civilization values,’ says the ministry in a press statement.

“The mosaic features 17 iconographies of birds and other animals depicted in bright colors. Archaeologists … don’t know whether the mosaic had religious or secular origins.

“The farmer has been covering the unearthed areas of the mosaic floor with tin sheets to protect them; so far, he’s dug up three separate sections, the widest measuring 6 feet by 9 feet, according to Fares Akram of the Associated Press. In total, the land covering the entire mosaic is about 5,400 square feet, and the mosaic itself measures about 250 square feet. Some parts of the mosaic appear to be damaged, likely from the roots of an old olive tree.

“ ‘These are the most beautiful mosaic floors discovered in Gaza, both in terms of the quality of the graphic representation and the complexity of the geometry,’ [Elter] tells the AP. …

“The Bureij refugee camp [is] located about half a mile from the border with Israel. Archaeologists and other experts are concerned about the mosaic’s future because of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as looting and a lack of funding for historical preservation.

“ ‘It is a spectacular find, especially as our knowledge of archaeology is sadly so spotty given circumstances there,’ Asa Eger, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, tells the Art Newspaper’s Hadani Ditmars. ‘Gaza was very important during the period of this mosaic and known for its burgeoning wine production exported across the Mediterranean.’ “

You’ll love the photos at Hyperallergic, here, and at Smithsonian, here. No firewalls.

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