To Grab A Tiger by the Tail:
Bringing forth the Lod Mosaic
by Karla Hood, Special Contributor
On-site Photos Courtesy
Israel Antiquities Authority

Those in the stone and tile industry can appreciate the beauty of the ancient world, captured in glowing marble or eternal granite; countless architectural wonders and dazzling statuary lay claim to some of the most magnificent art created by man.

The first weekend in October I was honored to view the Lod Mosaic, a late 3rd century tile floor from Lod, Israel which is, in all likelihood, the most perfect and stunning example of the ancient art of mosaic still in existence.

This floor is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NewYork City, in the John A. and Carole O. Moran Gallery. Walking up to the mosaic, which is only one section of that which was unearthed by the archaeological team, I could only gasp in awe: the floor looks as if it were just laid a week ago. The morning sunlight streaming down from the windows added a soft, indirect glow, which showed how it would have appeared inside the ancient building where it resided. Although it consists only of 16 colors, the animals and fish look so realistic and bright, they could almost jump up and run or swim away. Most of the approximately 12,000 tiles were chiseled from local limestone, with the exception of the blues, which were created from glass, and some vinework in a neighboring strip of mosaic, which are clear glass with an inner layer of gold leaf. I can only imagine what it would have been like to enter the building which housed this and see the floor for the first time. However, I can also imagine the look on the faces of those who arranged for the mosaic to be laid, as they enjoyed the reaction of their guests.

The section on display is thirteen feet by twenty-three feet. One observer remarked with a chuckle, "This floor may be larger than my whole apartment." The detailed precision both in cutting the tesserae and planning and laying the design speaks of craftsmen who were masters in their fields. Remains of both colored drawings and lines incised into the underlying mortar show how the design was laid out.

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