Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ancient Jericho: the largest carpet mosaic in the Middle East


The small red, blue and ochre square stones, measuring nearly 900 square meters (9,700 square feet) are laid out in complex geometric and floral patterns. They cover the floor of the main bath house of an Islamic palace that was destroyed by an earthquake in the eighth century. Since being excavated in the 1930s and 1940s, the mosaic has largely remained hidden under layers of canvas and soil to protect it against sun and rain.

Visitors look at part of a mosaic, measuring around 9,700 square feet (900 square meters), in ruins of an 8th-century Islamic palace outside the West bank town of Jericho.

A small section will be laid bare for a week, as part of Jericho's 10,000th birthday celebrations. The mosaic then will be covered up again until the money is found to build a roof that would serve as a permanent weather shield, said Palestinian archaeologist Hamdan Taha. Marking the 10,000th birthday is entirely random, though, with archaeologists saying they could be off by hundreds of years in dating the first human settlement in the area.

Hamad said it's the largest carpet mosaic in the Middle East, a claim backed by Marwan Abu Khalaf, an archaeology professor at Al-Quds university and a fellow at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. Abu Khalaf said the fine workmanship suggests that the Umayyads hired master artists instead of ordinary craftsmen to lay the mosaic.

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