In the 1980s, archaeologists unearthed an ancient mosaic “adorned with colorful floral designs” that once served as the floor of a church along the Israel National Trail.
Over the past 40 years though, the floor was covered by overgrowth and became inaccessible. That is until recently, when archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority once again unearthed the ancient floor, the team said in a March 19 Facebook post.
“When we first came to the site, the mosaic was covered over with earth and weeds. Over the last month we have been uncovering and cleaning up the site together with the local community,” Yair Amitzur, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority Central Region Education Department, said in the post.
The church floor dates to the Byzantine era in Israel — which began with Constantine’s rule in the early fourth century and lasted until the Arab invasion and conquest in the early seventh century — and depicts a colorful floral pattern that experts say was likely inspired by the flowers surrounding the site.
“We are working here amongst a carpet of flowering anemones. One can just imagine that the artist of the flower-adorned mosaic was inspired by the surroundings,” Amitzur said.
The discovery is along what was once an ancient road connecting the country’s western coastal region to the Judean Shephelah lowlands, the team said. A Roman-era villa accompanied by “agricultural processing installations and several buildings that served the ancient residents” was also discovered at the site.
In ancient times, the road was also lined with “refreshing stations” that gave travelers a place to stop, rest and pray along their journey, archaeologists said.
Experts think the site was first settled as early as the Chalcolithic period — which spanned from 4500 B.C. until 3500 B.C. — and was inhabited until the Islamic period, ending in the early 11th century.
Now, the team of archaeologists and volunteers is transforming the floor into a spot for tourists along the National Israel Trail.
“Israel Trail hikers will be able to stop here, replenish their water supplies, drink a cup of coffee, and ‘en route’ (literally), receive an explanation on the site,” according to Amitzur.
The floor is in the Shoham Industrial Zone, about 30 miles north of Tel Aviv.