Thursday, June 09, 2016

The Bird Mosaic in the Roman City of Caesarea

The Bird Mosaic and adjacent geometric mosaic floors.
On a hill overlooking the Mediterranean a presumably very rich resident of Roman/Byzantine Judea built a large and beautiful villa in the Roman style. Israeli archaeologists discovered the site in around 1955, did a preliminary exploration, and covered it up until 2005 when excavations were completed. On the floor of one room of this Roman villa is a stunning mosaic with 120 medallions of bird images, and an outer band with other animals. From the Caesarea Corporation website:
"The owner of the palace is unknown but was obviously extremely wealthy. Built in the sixth century, the palace included a hall with a mosaic floor, columns, an open roofed yard and a second floor. The findings indicate an exceptionally developed water and drainage system that included inclined floors, water canals and recessed wells. The central area uncovered is 200 square meters."
Today you can visit this site in a park around a mile from the Caesarea National Park where the principal buildings of the city once stood. There's no barrier around the mosaic or any formalities for visiting -- you just walk into the park and up a wooded hill covered with pine trees, and you're there. (We found it by consulting google maps.)

I couldn't bring myself to walk on the mosaic, though it's evident that everybody does it. I tried to take at least one photo of each of the birds, whose images are repeated throughout the design. Similar birds and animals also appear in a mosaic inside the main city, indicating that the mosaic shop was set up for something like mass production! Below are my best results, with our best guess as to ID, and with one or two images of the actual bird as we saw it last week:

Maybe a crane. Maybe just a fanciful bird.
Maybe a heron. Maybe just a fanciful bird.
An ibis.
A flamingo.
Another medallion with a flamingo.
A flamingo at the
Safari Park
A goose. Probably an Egyptian goose. We saw
lots of these in Israel last week.  
Egyptian goose at Safari Park.
A partridge.
A guinea fowl. This species is no longer found in
Israel, but probably was raised for food or native then.
A peacock
Another medallion with a peacock.
A pelican.  
Pelican at the Safari Park.
A duck.
A gazelle.
An elephant.
From their villa, the residents had a lovely view of the sea.

1 comment:

Jeanie said...

This is spectacular -- and I can see why you wouldn't want to walk on it but I'm glad you captured it so beautifully in your photographs.

I was worried about you till I remembered seeing a photo of you at the airport. Good.

I've loved this whole series of posts. The cookbooks were interesting too!