A century old treasure comes to Philadelphia

March 14, 2013 4:56:43 AM PDT
You can explore the foundations of virtually any culture at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. For decades, it's unlocked history through treasures archaeologists have brought here to Philadelphia.

Some stay. But others are on exhibit only for a short time. That's the story of the Lod Mosaic, on loan by the government of Israel only through May 12.

Dr. Brian Rose, curator of the museum's Mediterranean section, says the mosaic was discovered in a dig outside Tel Aviv in 1996. That's when the ruins of a wealthy man's home were first pinpointed in the town of Lod.

The town itself dates back to Bible times. Excavations on the site of the house in 2009 unearthed the mosaic...a huge panel likely telling the story of the owner of the house.

Dr. Rose says the mosaic depicts no humans, likely because the Jewish scriptures forbade that. Instead, you see images of boats, and all sorts of exotic animals.

It's theorized that the owner of the house and the mosaic was a dealer in animals, shipping them to Rome for spectacles at the Coliseum.

These events, cruel by today's standards, demanded so many animals that the supply in what we now call Italy would have been exhausted. Plus, more-exotic creatures were found elsewhere in the world

Dr. Rose believes the ancient merchant who owned the mosaic imported animals from Africa to Israel, then shipped them to Rome on demand. Because the mosaic itself has no explanation, panels are shown with it to make the imagery plain.

The Lod Mosaic has been on a tour of North America, and Philadelphia is its last stop. From here, it goes through Europe en route home to Israel.

Once there, it is not expected to leave again.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum is located at 33rd and South Streets in University City, opposite Franklin Field.

It's open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00am t 5:00pm, and Wednesday evenings until 8:00pm and closed Mondays.

For information, access Penn Museum or phone 215-898-4000.

The Lod Mosaic exhibit is free with your regular admission.


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