While planting a tree, a Palestinian farmer accidentally unearthed a 1500-years-old Byzantine mosaic in the Gaza Strip.
Right now, the French Biblical and Archaeological School, which is based in Jerusalem, is working on excavating all the panels that could be found. In this endeavor, they are being helped by the local Palestinians. René Elter, an archaeologist with the team, said: “These are the most beautiful mosaic floors discovered in Gaza, both in terms of the quality of the graphic representation and the complexity of the geometry”. She also emphasized that the close proximity of the site to Israel leaves it in danger of getting destroyed; as such, excavating it quickly is the priority. The Gaza Strip has been a tense battleground between Israel and Palestine for many years.
The mosaic features a plethora of various birds and animals, from dogs to inserts and waterfowl. An exact date of the mosaic is challenging to pin down at the moment. However, it is speculated that the mosaic was created at the height of Byzantine rule in the area now known as Palestine. The Byzantine empire in the region lasted from 390 AD to around 635 AD when the Muslim invasion conquered the region. The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Palestine, released a statement about the discovery: “This provides us with historical information and details about the ancient civilizations and anthropology in Gaza, the historical and economic relations with the ancient regional environment and the status of Palestine across the world”.
The mosaic was unearthed was the Palestinian farmer Suleiman al-Nabahin, while he was digging to plant an olive tree. Suleiman is among the approx. 3000 Palestinians who are living in refugee camps along the Gaza Strip. While the ongoing conflict with Israel forced them to get displaced from their homes, the camps lack basic amenities like sewage treatment and potable water.