Part of the now famous Lod mosaic features sketches of animals. Part of the now famous Lod mosaic features sketches of animals. Part of the now famous Lod mosaic features sketches of animals. (Photo: Niki Davidov / Israel Antiquities Authority)

While building a museum for ancient mosaics, archaeologists unearth yet another mosaic

1,700-year-old floor was part of Roman-era mega-mansion.

It's likely the first lesson they teach you in archaeology school. Before you build a museum atop a site, first make sure you uncover everything that you can find there.

The builders of such a museum in the Israeli city of Lod near Tel Aviv are discovering that mantra firsthand this summer. In 1996, archaeologists unearthed ancient mosaics hidden under a garbage dump. That original batch of intricate tile work – part of a Roman villa dating back 1,700 years – has since been seen by people all across the globe. The mosaic has been showcased at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Louvre in Paris, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Field Museum in Chicago just to name a few.

mosaic Journalists surround the second mosaic at a 2015 press conference. (Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

When a second mosaic was discovered in 2015, the city of Lod figured it would be a good idea to build a museum on the site to permanently house the mosaics. So construction got underway. But little did the planners know that yet another mosaic was still waiting to be discovered.

This summer, as tractors dug up the earth to start constructing the museum's foundation, a third(!) mosaic was found.

“The archaeological excavation that we carried out this month was relatively small, but contributed significantly to our understanding of the villa building” said Dr. Amir Gorzalczany, the director of the present excavation. “Thankfully, the main central panel of the mosaic was preserved." The team carefully rolled up the mosaic as if it was a carpet, as seen in this video.

The discovered mosaics indicate that the home was much larger than archaeologists originally thought, leading some to believe that its owner was incredibly wealthy. "Could he have been the Mark Zuckerberg of 4th century Lod?" asked one local newspaper.

"The excavations at the site exposed a villa that included a large luxurious mosaic-paved reception room triclinium, and an internal columned courtyard, also with mosaics, and a water system," added Dr. Gorzalczany. "We found evidence for Mediterranean luxury that characterized the Roman empire, including attributes such as fresco wall paintings."

A worker uncovers part of the newly discovered mosaic. A worker uncovers part of the newly discovered mosaic. (Photo: Amir Gorzalczany / Israel Antiquities Authority)

Gorzalczany considered that the newly discovered mosaic paved an additional reception room next to the vast reception hall uncovered in 1996. “If this is the case, then the villa may be much larger than we supposed," he admitted. "The discovery, in close proximity to the earlier hall, raises new questions: How large was the building? Did the villa comprise several reception halls? Where were the private living rooms? Was there a second story? These issues may be resolved in future excavations.”

The new mosaic museum is set to open in two years – which is plenty of time to include any additional mosaics they might still unearth along the way.

A newly exposed section of the mosaic features birds and fish. A newly exposed section of the mosaic features birds and fish. (Photo: Niki Davidov / Israel Antiquities Authority)

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