(*) hommage to the title of my previous newsletter- “who moved thy ladder?”
In 1996 I was a young student of archaeology, and to make a living I also worked as a guide on behalf of the IAA (Israel antiquities Authority). Most of my job was conducting the Friday tour of the southern wall archaeological park in Jerusalem. It became a routine after a while, but helped pay the bills..
One day I got a phone call from my boss. With excitement he told me of a grand mosaic floor from Roman times which was discovered in Lod, not far from Israel’s main International Airport. However no budget was found to restore the mosaic, and so unfortunately the IAA and the municipality of Lod decided the best way to protect the mosaic is – well, to cover it again.
But before the mosaic was to be concealed, a decision was made to enable the public to view the mosaic for one last time, during one week-end. Expecting large crowds, I was asked to aid guiding at the site. With enthusiasm I happily joined the guiding team, and indeed during that week-end I spent hours, with my colleagues, explaining the find to an endless flow of curious visitors. The police estimated some 30,000 people came to get a last peek at the mosaic over that week-end.
And indeed in the following week sand was poured on the mosaic, concealing it till further notice. The further notice was made last month (July 2009). The Leon Levy and foundation, and Shelby White, Chairman of the friends of the IAA, kindly provided the necessary funding to expose again the mosaic, take it out, conserve it, and finally it display it back insitu (where it was originally found), in an attractive setting, like a small archaeological park. Furthermore, during the construction of the archaeological park, the main panel of the mosaic (nicknamed “lion king” panel), will be presented at the Metropolitan Museum of art in New-York.
And so this month the mosaic was exposed again. This time “only” 5000 people came to see its re-exposition, and now the site is closed again while preparations are made to extract the mosaic. Visiting this site while the preparations for the removal of the mosaic were undertaken, I met with Zaque Nagar, the head of the mosaic conservation department in the IAA. He was busy monitoring tests done on the mosaic stones to figure out the best way to insure its safe removal. While such a task seems impossible to me, Jacque seemed confident at was he was doing.
The removal took place a short time after my visit, and the completion of the project is scheduled to “more or less two and a half years” according to Jacque.Until then, the New-Yorkers among you will be able to appreciate part of the mosaic at the Met.