Byzantine mosaic discovered by farmer in Gaza Strip

A Palestinian farmer has unearthed a large Byzantine mosaic pavement while planting an olive tree in the Gaza strip.

byzantine mosaic

Suleiman al-Nabahin uncovered the mosaic in the Bureij refugee camp last year, before carefully excavating the area with his son for three months. Working alongside archaeologists from the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem, they have safely uncovered several panels that appear in pristine condition.

The floor boasts 17 iconographies of beasts and birds and the colours remain bright.

René Elter, an archaeologist at the school, said the mosaic dates to a time between the fifth and the seventh centuries, however a proper excavation was necessary to more accurately place it.

“These are the most beautiful mosaic floors discovered in Gaza, both in terms of the quality of the graphic representation and the complexity of the geometry,” Elter said. Further excavation is also needed to determine if it was part of a religious or secular complex.

Asa Eger, an archaeologist and specialist in Byzantine and Islamic archaeology in the Levant at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, described it as a “spectacular find” to The Art Newspaper. 

“It is a spectacular find, especially as our knowledge of archaeology is sadly so spotty given circumstances there. Gaza was very important during the period of this mosaic and known for its burgeoning wine production exported across the Mediterranean.”

It is believed Gaza’s rulers, Hamas, are planning a major announcement. The mosaic was discovered just one kilometre from the Israeli border. 

Its location in an area plagued by ongoing conflict and instability has led to fears for its preservation. Elter said the mosaic was in “immediate danger,” adding: “It is imperative to quickly organise an emergency rescue intervention.”

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