An endless cycle of life, as depicted in the mosaic’s central panel. Israel Antiquities Authority

In 1996 a highway was being constructed in Lod, a town 10 miles southeast of Tel Aviv, when, as so often happens in those parts, the workers came upon an ancient and heretofore unknown archaeological site. Naturally all work stopped at once, a bevy of specialists, led by Dr. Miriam Avissar, was called in and, a few months later, a wonder was announced to the world.

The most conspicuous component of the excavations was a merchant’s house from about A.D. 300. Discovered therein was the nearly intact mosaic floor of a dining room. Of several mosaics unearthed at the site, this is the one that now stands unveiled to the general public, for the first time anywhere, in the Leon Levy and Shelby White Court in the Metropolitan Museum’s Greek and Roman Galleries. The Met is the first of four American venues to which the mosaic will travel before returning to Israel, where it will be the star of the not-yet-completed Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center. At the Met, regrettably, it is accompanied by a video loop whose soundtrack, although informative, is likely to distract viewers who would prefer to contemplate the mosaics in silence.


James Gardner
Wall Street Journal