Monday, April 20, 2015

A New Mosaic Discovery

Picture by Jim Haberman

Last week I saw this article about a new mosaic discovery that archeology professor, Jodi Magness, from UNC-Chapel Hill recently made in Galilea. She and a group of students have been going to the site of an ancient Jewish synagog, Huqoqa, since 2011. The mosaics date back to the fifth century and depict scenes from the Bible. Another mosaic features an elephant and a military commander, possibly Alexander the Great.

Picture from Huqoqa excavation site from official webpage

Mosaics were a way of representing biblical stories to the illiterate public. However, since there are no elephants in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), the elephant mosaic is curious. Patching together the reason it is there and learning more from what other mosaics they may find will create a better understanding of what life was like at that time.

After reading about this find, I was reminded of a book that I read years ago. It's called Ancient Mosaics by Roger Ling. It is a comprehensive look at the mosaics of Greece, Rome, and Africa. For anyone who is interested in the history of mosaics, I would highly recommend this book. It is interesting to read and has enough pictures to keep you engaged.

One subject he covers is how mosaics changed over time. I think it's interesting that while mosaics started off as floor coverings, eventually they moved up onto the walls. There were trends of the type (marble, stone) and style of mosaics (geometric, bordered), in addition to the theme of the image (religious, depictions of hunts).

Most often the mosaics were designed by an artist and rendered by laborers. The way they were constructed required layers of prepared support. The following diagram is an illustration of those layers (page 8 of Ancient Mosaics).

The solid foundation is why these centuries old mosaics exist today. Some have even survived earthquakes. Who knows what the mosaics at Huqoqa have endured?

It will be interesting to keep up with the Huqoqa excavation and what new insights will be discovered there.

May all of your scores run true!

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