Israel mosaic could add to tourism picture

13th May 2013

Israel, a land already rich in cultural sites, has unearthed another one - just in the nick of time before being buried forever underneath a new road.

Excavators found a colourful mosaic dating back up to 1,700 years.

It was unearthed almost intact, despite lying only centimetres beneath the Beit Qama kibbutz fields in the B'nei Shimon regional council, around 65 miles from Jerusalem.

It was uncovered on the site of an ancient road along with remains of a Byzantine-era settlement stretching across more than 6,000sqm.

The mosaic, featuring black, white and red tiles and adorned with peacocks, doves pecking at grapes and wine jars, dates back to between the fourth and sixth centuries.

Israel Antiquities Authority, which started digging before work got under way on a new road, said the mosaic formed the floor of a big public building inside the settlement.

Excavators, now trying to establish what the impressive public building was used for, think it may have formed part of a pub for travellers on the main road outside Beersheba. Ritual baths were also recently found nearby.

If utilised for tourism, the new site will add to a long line of Israeli "must-sees", including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Nazareth, that make it such a hit with holidaymakers on group tours.

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