Byzantine mosaics discovered under farm in Gaza

Byzantine mosaics dating from the 5th to 7th centuries were unveiled in the central Gaza Strip on Friday, after being uncovered by a farmer ploughing his land.

Found in an area less than a kilometer (half a mile) from the often tense border with Israel, the mosaics are “in a perfect state of conservation”, said French archaeologist Rene Elter, a researcher associated with the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem whose team examined the finds.

“It’s work of excellent quality, they used materials that were certainly relatively expensive,” Elter said.

He said the mosaics may have adorned the floor of a church or private villa.

The mosaics are the latest in a series of Byzantine archaeological finds in Gaza in recent years.

In January, the remains of a fifth-century church were unveiled in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip following a three-year restoration project.

The Byzantine era was a time of wealth and artistic patronage in Palestine, with the construction of many new churches and other monuments. It ended with the Muslim conquest of the late 630s.

Contemporary Gaza is impoverished and densely populated. Some 2.3 million people live in the territory, which has been blockaded by Israel since 2007, when the Islamist group Hamas ousted loyalists of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

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