An exquisite 1,500-year-old mosaic has come to light in an excavation in southern Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Sunday.
The mosaic appears to have been the floor of a public building in a thriving Byzantine-era village on the site, near the modern-day kibbutz of Beit Kama. The precise role of the building in the life of the community is unknown.
The community, located along an ancient road leading north from Beersheba, also included a church, storerooms and pools for storing water.
Artists decorated the floor of the building with geometric patterns and depictions of birds like peacocks and doves. What makes the mosaic unique, beyond the high level of craftsmanship, is “the large number of motifs that were incorporated into one carpet,” according to the IAA statement.
In Byzantine times, the area around modern-day Beit Kama was home to both Christian and Jewish communities. At two other sites, Horbat Rimon and Nahal Shoval, archaeologists have unearthed ritual baths, signs of Jewish settlement.
The excavation is being conducted to allow the construction of a new traffic interchange.