The Lod Mosaic, discovered in Lod, Israel, in 1996, was lifted out of the archeological site for conservation in 2009. The lift produced fascinating insight into how the mosaic was laid some seventeen hundred years ago. This short video, produced by the Metropolitan Museum from footage provided by the Israel Antiquities Authority, documents this historic process.
Miriam Avissar, archaeologist, Israel Antiquities Authority; Jaques Neguer, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority Art Conservation Branch
Miriam Avissar: I was sent, in 1996, to undertake a simple trial excavation, because the municipality of Lod wanted to widen the street. The first thing I found was a white corner of a mosaic floor. Then we found a tail of a tiger, and we saw immediately that it was of a marvelous quality.
After two months, I had the whole mosaic floor.
Jaques Neguer: We are working on the conservation of the Lod mosaic. At the beginning, we didn't want to move the mosaic from this place, but when we decided to build there a museum, and to excavate more, it was more wise to take out the mosaic to have the space to dig and to build properly.
In this time, we are proceeding to the lifting of the mosaic. Now, first of all comes the careful cleaning. The second, is the very precise documentation and the decision of how to cut the mosaic without disturbing the composition, because the lifting is a very tricky process and is a key moment in the conservation. Not many mosaics have this quality and this level of integrity, and the mosaic has not been touched.
In this moment, we are proceeding with the gluing of the mosaic with cotton fabric. After that comes the cutting of the mosaic from the bedding. We are dividing the mosaic into the minimum possible fragments. The detachment is a very important part of the conservation process, and needs a lot of professional skills, experience, and power. From this moment, depends everything—the future conservation, and the future success of the restoration.
We have in our hands all the history of building of this mosaic, and discovered step by step how the mosaic was done, who did the mosaic. We have the footprints of the people walking on the mosaic to lay on the tessera. With these footprints, we have the connection in time between the people working on this mosaic and us, working again to conserve the mosaic and to transfer the mosaic in the future.
The mosaic will be transferred to wooden platforms, to transport the fragments to our laboratories in Jerusalem for further conservation, construction of new supports. The conservation process will take two years, the building of the museum a little bit more. The first place to display the mosaic will be the Metropolitan Museum, in New York.
Produced by Christopher Noey.
Editor: Kate Farrell / Animation: Paul Caro / Production Assistant: Sarah Cowan / Audio Post-Production: David Raymond / Scholarly Consultant: Christopher Lightfoot
Miriam Avissar, Jacob Fisch, Carlos Picón, Jacques Neguer
All photographs and video footage courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.