University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Past Special Exhibition at the Penn Museum

Unearthing a Masterpiece was open from February 10 through May 12, 2013

More than 300 square feet and nearly 2,000 years old, this ancient Roman floor mosaic is one of the world’s largest and best preserved. Discovered in 1996 in Lod, Israel (near Tel Aviv), the "Lod Mosaic" is often characterized as an archaeological gem. Learn about the mosaic's discovery, history and conservation in this limited time exhibition. See this unique masterpiece in its final United States venue before it travels to the Louvre in Paris and eventually becomes the permanent focus of the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center in Israel.

The Discovery of an Ancient Masterpiece

Dating to 300 CE, the "Lod Mosaic" is one of the most complete, well-preserved, and largest Roman mosaics ever found. It was likely commissioned by a high-standing Roman official for his private home. Alluding to gladiatorial games, the mosaic panels depict scenes of hunting, trading, and marine life; but the lack of human figures on any of the panels makes the Lod Mosaic very unusual. This exhibition presents the unique history and fascinating excavation of this impressive ancient Roman mosaic.

Excavating the Lod Mosaic

In 1996, workmen constructing a new highway in Lod, Israel (near modern-day Tel Aviv), made a shocking discovery: a 1,700 year old Roman mosaic under the surface of the road. At that time, the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted a rescue excavation that revealed a full series of mosaic floors, measuring roughly 27 by 50 feet overall. Conservators provided preliminary treatment of the mosaics, but they were then reburied until funding could be secured for the full scientific excavation and conservation. In 2009, excavators unearthed the Lod Mosaic once again. The mosaics were then separated into panels and rolled away from the earth. Three of these panels are on display in Unearthing a Masterpiece. Today, they remain in near perfect condition.

More details about the discovery, history, and conservation of the mosaic can be found here:

The Lod Mosaic is on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center. Penn Museum is deeply grateful to the Women's Committee for lead sponsorship of Unearthing a Masterpiece: A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel, as well as for generous underwriting of the restoration of the Upper Kamin Entrance doors. Additional support is provided by Alexandra and Eric J. Schoenberg, Ph.D., and by the Julian A. and Lois G. Brodsky Foundation. Renovations to the Pepper Gallery, where the Lod Mosaic is on display, were generously underwritten by an anonymous gift in memory of Michel and Nelly Abemayor.

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