Mosaic Pavement

Mosaic pavement
Kissufim, Israel
Byzantine period, 576-578 CE
Stone and glass
H: 130 cm; W: 153 cm
Israel Antiquities Authority
Accession number: IAA 77-416
Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Uncovered in the fields of Kibbutz Kissufim in the western Negev, this pavement once formed part of the mosaic floor of a sixth-century Byzantine church. Although mosaic work dates back to the Hellenistic era, the craft flourished and achieved wide popularity in the Byzantine period, when mosaics were used to pave synagogues, churches, and secular buildings. The two scenes reproduced here are of a lioness with her cub and a horseman spearing a tiger. The Greek inscription above the horseman scene reads: "The deeds of Alexander," perhaps referring to Alexander the Great, whose exploits were renowned throughout the ancient world. An inscription in the mosaic indicates the exact date of the completion of this pavement in 578 CE, during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian II (565-578 CE). The Kissufim mosaic is unparalleled in design and execution among the many mosaic pavements known in Israel. The western Negev, where it was found, is rich in contemporaneous mosaic floors. Literary sources also mention magnificent wall mosaics in Gaza, which was apparently an important center for mosaic workshops of different styles in the fifth and sixth century CE.

The Israel Museum, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005

Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Pidem Fund, London