Saturday, April 4, 2009

Mosaic Floor Unveiled in Ancient Synagogue Ruins

A spectacular 1,500-year-old mosaic floor in an ancient synagogue in the western Negev was unveiled to the public on Monday.

The mosaic, which is part of a synagogue from the Byzantine period (fifth and sixth centuries in the Common Era) is located in the community of Ma'on-Nirim.

A stunning portrayal of symbols from the period, the 3.70 x 7.80-meter Byzantine work of art is decorated with a seven-branched menorah and the images of various animals common to the area, among them the Lion of Judah.

Scenes of everyday life, including wine production from the surrounding vineyards, grace the medallions that dance along a vine winding around the floor.

Archaeologists said that the coins, bone and metal artifacts that were found on the floor probably belonged to the Holy Ark and the ornamental curtain in front of the ark. Fragments of glass and ceramic lamps were also present, as were dozens of amulets, some of which were related to women who were asking for good health.

A large panel with an Aramaic inscription is also incorporated into the mosaic itself, the upper part of which blesses all of the community, followed by a dedication to three individuals who donated generous contributions.

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