A large work of art, which for decades was hidden beneath Middle Eastern soil, is now on view in Philadelphia. As WRTI’s Jim Cotter reports, the ancient Roman floor mosaic is destined for a new Museum in Israel.
The 50-foot long, 27-foot wide, multi-colored geometric mosaic was in excellent condition when it was discovered three feet underground by workmen widening a road in Lod, near Tel Aviv in 1996.
The floor, believed to be part of a Roman home from about 300 AD, was then reburied to preserve it until 2009, when it could be properly excavated and conserved.
Brian Rose, curator of the Mediterranean section of the Penn Museum says the mosaic, which features animals and fish but no people, gives no clues as to the religious or cultural background of its original owner.
And though the background of the owner of the piece is unclear what is obvious is that he was rich and that he made his money in a trade peculiar to this period in Roman history.
Rose states, "It looks as if the owner may have been involved in the wild animal export industry wherein one would have agents going into Africa and the Near East to find the most exotic animals possible and those animals would be shipped off to Israel. So whoever this man was, he obviously got rich selling animals to the gladiatorial games industry."
The Penn Museum is the last stop on the mosaic’s US tour, during which it has been taken apart and reassembled for each venue.
Unearthing a Masterpiece: A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel, is at the Penn Museum through May 12th.