Spectacular 1,500-year-old Mosaic Discovered in Southern Israel

Floor is centerpiece of sprawling Byzantine village unearthed at Beit Kama.

A magnificent 1,500-year-old mosaic floor has been uncovered by archeologists near Kibbutz Beit Kama in the south, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Sunday.

The mosaic was the most outstanding find in a Byzantine-era village unearthed in the Negev during a survey conducted prior to construction of a highway.

The village, which thrived from the 4th through 6th centuries C.E., encompassed about six dunams – or an acre and a half – and was discovered under the fields of the kibbutz. Among the finds was a public building measuring 12 meters by 8.5 meters (about 40 feet by 26 feet) containing the mosaic floor. Archaeologists assume the building was a public one due to its size and relative opulence.

The colorful mosaic includes geometric motifs and features amphorae – wine containers— in the corners, as well as a pair of peacocks and a pair of doves pecking at grapes on grapevines. The combination of so many motifs in one mosaic is unusual, say Israel Antiquities Authority officials.

The building also features a system of water channels, pipes and water pools.

The site, situated on an ancient road that led north from Be'er Sheva, apparently included a large estate with a church, residential buildings, storerooms, a large water cistern, a public building and agricultural fields equipped with irrigation pools. One building appears to have served as a hostel for travelers passing through the area, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The site was excavated prior to the southern extension of Route 6.

Ilan Assayag