The cornerstone of the “Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Archaeological Center”” was laid today (October 19th, 2017) in a festive ceremony with participation of Lod’s Mayor, Yair Ravivo LLB, Israel Antiquities Authority Director Mr. Israel Hasson, and the donor for the establishment of the center, Mrs. Shelby White.
The famous Lod mosaic, which was viewed by hundreds of thousands of visitors in the most important museums throughout the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, and the Hermitage, is one of the most spectacular and most complete ever exposed in the world.
The mosaic was accidently found in 1996 by Mrs. Miriam Avisar from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), as part of a dig aimed to save archaeological finds in a square on HeKhalutz St. in Lod.
The mosaic was dated at the Roman period (the end of the third centuryCE / beginning of the fourth century CE). Without a budget for preservation and conservation to display the site, the mosaic was covered at the end of the dig, until 2009 when the IAA found the funding – with a generous donation by the Leon Levy Foundation and Shelby White – to re-expose the mosaic and to remove it for conservation, and subsequently – to return it to the original site at the “Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Archaeology Center”.
The mosaic, extraordinary in its quality, its depicted subject matters and preservation, actually served as the floor of a living room villa, which was part of a wealthy housing complex, erected in Lod during the Byzantine period. It is 17m long and 9m wide, and is composed of colorful mosaic carpets where mammals, birds, fish, flora and even sailing vessels are depicted in great detail. The design is influenced by north African mosaics. It is interesting to note that unlike other mosaics found from that period, there are no human figures. South of the main mosaic a second colorful mosaic was found which was also part of the villa, and will also be incorporated in the museum.
The site is a central vehicle for the promotion of Lod tourism: the mosaic site is situated on the north-eastern part of Lod, adjacent to the Ginaton junction. This junction has easy access to Ben Gurion International Airport and to two main arteries in Israel: route no. 1 connecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and route no. 6 connecting the northern part of Israel to the south. Its location makes approach simple from all directions and will enable access to touristic itineraries which will include a few historic sites in Lod.
The mosaic will be displayed to the general public and to Lod residents. The goal is to provide the visitors access to view and experience the mosaic from various angles and to be impressed by its unique beauty. The center will connect the residents to the important cultural heritage of their city, the mosaic representing their cultural diversity.
This is a unique project to display a world class find in-situ, within a modern complex relating to the villa where this mosaic was found.
Lod Mayor, Yair Ravivo LLB: “after 21 years we have reached this significant day when we are laying the cornerstone for the “Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Archaeological Center”, a source for local pride and connection to Lod’s long history – the oldest in the world! Very soon, our dream in the city of mosaic of cultures will materialize when one of the most important museums will be open, and will place Lod on the world tourism map. We will provide for visitors from Israel and from around the world to view this incredible treasure here in Lod.
The new center will provide a dignified front and an impressive gate to the city, and will connect the visitors to a touristic route which will include marvelous historic sites which we are preserving within the development of the old city, to include Khan El-Khalil, the arches house, the famous local market and the Tana’im museum as well as the new municipality complex which we are building for our residents. On behalf of the citizens of Lod I am delighted to give my thanks to our dear donor, Mrs. Shelby White, and to the Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Mr. Israel Hasson, and also to the entire professional team, for the partnership. Old Lod is rejuvenated!”
According to Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority Israel Hasson: “after 20 years of persistence by the IAA together with a determined and loyal partner, who is a true friend of Israeli archeology, Mrs. Shelby White, we luckily encounteted a committed and worthy Lod municipality leadership. It gives us great pleasure to be able to provide visitors from around the world to enjoy a 2000 years old cultural treasure waiting patiently to be unveiled and appreciated. In this project the IAA utilizes all of its prefessional capabilities, from supervision, thorough conducting a careful, responsible and professional archeological dig, all the way to superb world class conservation attention. For all of this I commend the IAA team”.
Mrs. Shelby White, donor of the “Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Archaeology Center”: “The Lod Museum will be a dream comes true, that began when my husband Leon Levy and I first saw the magnificent mosaic twenty years ago. This could not have happened without the strong support of the Lod community and the Israel Antiquities Authority”.
The Lod mosaic. Photo: Skyview, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
The mosaic. Photo: Niki Davidov, Israel Antiquities Authority
renderings of the center. Architect Amit Nemlich, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
Mrs. Shelby White, donor of the “Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Archaeological Center”, laying the cornerstone. Photo: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
Lod mayor, Yair Ravivo LLB, Israel Hasson, Director-general of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Mrs. Shelby White the donor, during the ceremony earlier today. Photo: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority