A 1,500-year-old mosaic floor from a Roman-era church in central Israel was finally uncovered, 40 years after it was first discovered, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on Sunday.
The ancient mosaics were first discovered in the 1980s in the industrial zone of Shoham near the Israel Trail but became inaccessible and were covered over.
“The site was first excavated in the 1980s by Professors Zeev Safrai and Shimon Dar,” said director of the Central District of the IAA Anan Azab. “It seems that the site was settled from the Iron Age or earlier, possibly as early as the Chalcolithic period, and down to the Islamic period.”
The mosaics are believed to have been the floor of a Roman-era church built later in the history of the settlement. The intricate tiles depict floral patterns mirroring the anemones that are common in that area.
“When we first came to the site, the mosaic was covered over with earth and weeds. Over the last month we have been uncovering and cleaning up the site together with the local community,” said Yair Amitzur, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority Central Region Education Department. “We are working here among a carpet of flowering anemones. It’s quite feasible that the mosaic artisan sat here and was inspired by the anemones flowering all around him.”
Along with the Roman-period church, archaeologists discovered agricultural processing installations. The remaining ruins of several ancient buildings are still visible today. In the Byzantine period, the church was built, located alongside the ancient road that connected the coastal area with the Judean Shephelah lowlands. Along the road were ancient “refreshing stations” every few kilometers discovered in other locations like Tel Tinshemet and Horvat Hani. These sites offered the ancient travelers a place for rest and prayer.
This area is now crossed by the modern Highway 6.
The restoration and cleaning up of the site is being carried out by the Shoham community and by Israel Antiquities Authority volunteers from around the country in the context of ‘Good Deeds Day.’ The Israel Antiquities Authority and the Shoham Local Council have also erected a new seating area for the pleasure of the hikers and the local residents.
The name of the town, Shoham, means ‘onyx’. The name relates to one of the 12 stones on the Hoshen, the sacred breastplate worn by the high priest (Exodus 28:20), similar to other nearby towns: Nofekh, Bareket, Leshem and Ahlama.