An ancient mosaic floor adorned with colorful floral designs has been re-discovered after 40 years along the Israel National Trail. The mosaic floor of an ancient church was first found in the 1980s but was subsequently covered over and not accessible until now.
With the help of volunteers, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Shoham Local Council have restored part of the archaeological site of Horvat El-Bira where the mosaic floor is located. The site is being prepared for visitors along the Israel National Trail.
Yair Amitzur, an archaeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority, said, “It’s quite feasible that the mosaic artisan sat here and was inspired by the anemones flowering all around him.”
The site of Horvat El-Bira was a Roman-period rural villa, where agricultural processing installations and several buildings that served the ancient residents are still present today. During the Byzantine period, a church was built at the site. It was located alongside the ancient road that connected the coastal area with the Judean Shephelah lowlands, now crossed by the modern Highway No. 6.
The site was first excavated in the 1980s by Professors Zeev Safrai and Shimon Dar. It seems that the site was settled from the Iron Age or earlier, possibly as early as the Chalcolithic period, and down to the Islamic period.
The restoration and cleaning up of the site is being carried out by the Shoham community and by Israel Antiquities Authority volunteers from around the country in the context of ‘Good Deeds Day.’ The Israel Antiquities Authority and the Shoham Local Council have also erected a new seating area for the pleasure of the hikers and the local residents.
Eli Escuzido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said, “It is very moving to meet good people who voluntarily enlist to enhance the local heritage, and to create a fine seating area along the Israel trail. This type of activity reflects the Israel experience at its best.”
The Shoham Local Council Mayor, Eitan Patigro, expressed his gratitude to the Israel Antiquities Authority for the initiative to uncover this fascinating site and thanked the local pupils who participated in the project.
The proximity of the site to the Israel National Trail and to the Food-Tracks that will be set up in the adjacent parking area provides an opportunity for a short and interesting walk while learning about the history of settlement in the Land of Israel and specifically in the region.