Rare Byzantine-Era Mosaic Discovered in Gaza


| LAST UPDATE 09/27/2022

By Stanley Wickens
Byzantine floor mosaic discovery
Ismael Mohamad/UPI via Shutterstock

It's quite common to hear stories about interesting artifacts people sometimes find in their own yards. For example, unearthing works of pottery - or even sometimes jewelry - that belonged to previous owners of the house, buried under layers of soil. But one farmer recently made the discovery of the century when his axe hit something rock-solid beneath the soft earth.

A Palestinian farmer named Salman al-Nabahin was stunned to find an ornate Byzantine floor mosaic in his own yard while planting trees in his olive orchard. According to Nabahin, he and his son couldn't understand why some of their trees had not properly taken root, and had begun to dig into the ground. Little did he know, when his son's axe met a stone-like object buried in the soil, they were about to know the answer. "I searched on the internet.... We learnt it was mosaic belonging to the Byzantine era," said the farmer, who lives in the Bureij refugee camp in the center of the Gaza Strip.

Byzantine floor mosaic discovery
Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Shutterstock
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The mosaic shows a frame decorated with Byzantine patterns, with colorful depictions of birds and other animals. According to the Palestinian ministry of tourism and antiquities, the illustrations on these panels were features of social life and culture during the Byzantine era. “The archaeological discovery is still in its early stages and we await to know more of the secrets and civilisation values,” the ministry said in a statement. “National research teams are working in partnership with international experts and scientists from the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem.”

Byzantium became a continuation of the Roman Empire in eastern domains following its split in the 5th century AD. Also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, it lasted from the end of the fourth century until the Ottoman conquest in 1453. Over the centuries, the region has been an important trade spot for civilizations across human history - going as far back as the ancient Egyptians and Philistines. With so many cultures having dominated the region since the beginning of human history, Gaza is unsurprisingly rich in antiquities. And as for what other discoveries remain hidden in the land, we can expect there are more ancient treasures like Salman al-Nabahin's discovery waiting to be unearthed...

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