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psiphas

At the beginning of the 1950s, a stunning mosaic was uncovered on the outskirts of Neighborhood 2 (near Rothschild Boulevard) during rampart training by a unit from Mahane 80. The mosaic was covered after five years due to its disintegration.

Fifty years passed until the Antiquities Authority and Amir Janach - Director of the Caesarea Antiquities Preservation project revealed and protected the unique find. Financed by the Caesarea Development Corporation, digs began in August 2004 in the area. According to archeologist Dr. Sefi Porat, the mosaic is part of the floor of the most extravagant palace ever uncovered in Israel.

In order to preserve and restore this mosaic, numerous volunteers, many of them residents of Caesarea, Or Akiva and Kibbutz Sdot-Yam, were recruited. The diggers reached a depth of 70cm, and what they uncovered was stunning in terms of their color - a large rectangular mosaic 'rug' and sections of other mosaic floors...the framework of the mosaic included fruit trees and animals (lion, tiger, bear, wild boar, ibex, dog, elephant, deer and bull) bordering 120 round medallions, each of which contained a bird, hence the name of the mosaic - The Bird Mosaic. A similar example of birds with the same series of animals was also found in the Hippodrome arena.

The owner of the palace is unknown but was obviously extremely wealthy. Built in the sixth century, the palace included a hall with a mosaic floor, columns, an open roofed yard and a second floor. The findings indicate an exceptionally developed water and drainage system that included inclined floors, water canals and recessed wells. The central area uncovered is 200 square meters.

Archeologists believe that the palace was deserted, robbed and destroyed to its foundations sometime in the seventh century.

During the dig, a table board covering was excavated that had gold and glass marquetry - squares and triangles. The plates are made using the gold glass technique - glass covered by gold layers covered by a transparent layer of glass. Imprinted on each plate is a cross or flower. The table was transported to Antiquities Authority laboratories to protect it and to prepare it for display - as a singularly unique find.

The work at the site was funded by the Caesarea Development Corporation, and included excavation, restoration and reinforcement of the site, and its preparation for visitors (access path, parking, etc.) at a cost of NIS 600,000. In October 2005, the site was opened to the general public - for free.