Palestinian farmer discovers rare ancient treasure in Gaza

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Bureij, Gaza, Sept. 16 (BNA): Last spring, a Palestinian farmer was planting a new olive tree when his shovel hit a hard object. He called his son, and for three months, the pair slowly excavated an ornate Byzantine-era mosaic that experts say is one of the greatest archaeological treasures ever found in Gaza.

The discovery has set off excitement among archaeologists but it is also drawing calls for better protection of Gaza’s antiquities, reports AP.

The mosaic was uncovered just a kilometer (half mile) from the Israeli border. The floor, boasting 17 iconographies of beasts and birds, is well-preserved and its colors are bright.

“These are the most beautiful mosaic floors discovered in Gaza, both in terms of the quality of the graphic representation and the complexity of the geometry,” said René Elter, an archaeologist from the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem.

“Never have mosaic floors of this finesse, this precision in the graphics and richness of the colors been discovered in the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Elter says the mosaic pavement dates back to a time between the 5th and the 7th centuries. But he said a proper excavation must be conducted to determine when exactly it was built and whether it was part of a religious or secular complex.

Elter, who has conducted research in Gaza in the past, has not been able to visit the site but viewed a series of photos and videos taken by local research partners.

The patch of land holding the mosaic is about 500 square meters (5,400 square feet) and three dug-out spots reveal glimpses of the mosaic.

The largest of the holes in the ground, about 2 meters by 3 meters (6 feet by 9 feet), has 17 drawings of animals.

The other two show intricate patterns of tiles. Roots of an old olive tree have damaged parts of the mosaic, which appears to be about 23 square meters (250 square feet) altogether in size.

AHN