Ancient Floral Mosaic Byzantine Church Floor Uncovered Again after 40 Years
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JERUSALEM, Israel – During Israel's winter rainy season, parts of Israel are covered with beautiful anemones, small flowers that grow wild here.
Artists from 1,500 years ago may have noticed and appreciated them as well, because floral artwork on the mosaic floor of an ancient Byzantine church, found between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, strongly resembles the anemones.
The church floor was discovered in the 1980's but has been covered over since that time. Now, the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), working with the Shoham Regional Council near Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, has once again uncovered the mosaic floor, making it a visitor's site on the Israel National Trail.
IAA archaeologist Yair Amitzur remarked, "It's quite feasible that the mosaic artisan sat here and was inspired by the anemones flowering all around him."
The floral mosaic is located in the Shoham Industrial Zone and is part of the site of Horvat El-Bira, located on the road that once connected the coastal region with the Judean lowlands. Along the road were several "refreshing stations." An IAA statement explained, "These sites offered ancient travelers a place for rest and for prayer, and for recovering their energy."
The site features a Roman-era rural villa and agricultural processing facilities, along with several buildings for ancient residents, which is where the Byzantines built a church.
Anan Azab, IAA Director of the Central District, noted, "It seems that the site was settled from the Iron Age (700 BC) or earlier, possibly as early as the Chalcolithic period, (4,500 BC) and down to the Islamic period."
The IAA and Shoham Council have enlisted volunteers, known as "trail angels," to help with the restoration and to tend to visitors. "Thanks to the project, Israel Trail Hikers will be able to stop here, replenish their water supplies, drink a cup of coffee, and 'en route' (literally), receive an explanation on the site." the IAA's Amitzur said.
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