Archaeologists excavated a Byzantine mosaic with floral designs in the Shoam Industrial Zone of Israel’s Shephelah region.
The Shephelah, also known as Shfela, is an area of gently undulating hills in south-central Israel that stretches between the Judaean Mountains and the Coastal Plain for 10 to 15 kilometres. The cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon, Rehovot, Beit Shemesh, and Kiryat Gat approximately encircle the Shephela today, while it is still primarily rural and home to several farms. The tribes of Dan and Judah received territory in the Shephela according to the Bible.
The excavations are a part of a community initiative to reconstruct Horvat El-Bira, an old hamlet that was destroyed by construction projects in the late 20th century. The Byzantine mosaic was first uncovered as a piece of an old church in the 1980s, but it was later reburied to protect the relics.
The area was home to a number of agriculturally related structures and a rural villa complex during the Roman era.
At the time of the Byzantine Empire, a network of “refreshing stations” was maintained by a church that was next to a significant ancient road that connected the coastal areas with the Shephelah plains. Every few kilometers, these stations were placed and served as locations for worship, healing, and relaxation.
The mosaic has recently been re-excavated by archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority in collaboration with the Shoham Local Council and volunteers, revealing a number of floral motifs that are centered inside a circular and square design.
“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. We are working here amongst a carpet of flowering anemones. One can just imagine that the artist of the flower-adorned mosaic was inspired by the surroundings.” said Yair Amitzur who is Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority Central Region Education Department.