Israeli archaeologists unearth 1,800-year-old mosaic

CAESAREA, Israel, Feb 8 (Reuters) - A 1,800-year-old mosaic of toga-clad men dating back to the Roman era has been unearthed in Israel, archaeologists said on Thursday.

The mosaic was discovered during the excavation of a building from the Byzantine period - some 300 years younger than the mosaic it was on top of - in the coastal city of Caesarea.

"The surprise was actually that we found two beautiful monuments from the glorious days of Caesarea," Peter Gendelman, co-director of excavation for the Israel Antiquities Authority, told Reuters of the building and mosaic.

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Archaeologists unearth 1,800-year-old mosaic in Israel
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Archaeologists unearth 1,800-year-old mosaic in Israel
An Israel Antiquities Authority worker cleans a mosaic floor decorated with a figure, which archaeologists say is 1,800 years old and was unearthed during an excavation in Caesarea, Israel February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Nir Elias
An Israel Antiquities Authority worker stands next to a mosaic floor which archaeologists say is 1,800 years old and was unearthed during an excavation in Caesarea, Israel February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Nir Elias
A decoration of a figure is seen on a mosaic floor which archaeologists say is 1,800 years old and was unearthed during an Israel Antiquities Authority excavation in Caesarea, Israel February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Nir Elias
Israel Antiquities Authority workers clean a mosaic floor decorated with figures, which archaeologists say is 1,800 years old and was unearthed during an excavation in Caesarea, Israel February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Nir Elias
An Israel Antiquities Authority worker holds a bucket while cleaning a mosaic floor decorated with figures, which archaeologists say is 1,800 years old and was unearthed during an excavation in Caesarea, Israel February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Nir Elias
Workers from the Israeli Antiquity Authority (IAA) clean a rare Roman mosaic from the 2nd3rd centuries at the Israeli Caesarea National Park on February 8, 2018. The mosaic was uncovered during an archaeological excavation that is part of the largest conservation and reconstruction project ever undertaken in Israel with an investment of over 28 million US dollars contributed by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation and the Caesarea Development Corporation. According to Dr. Peter Gendelman and Dr. Uzi Ad, directors of the excavation for the IAA: This colourful mosaic, measuring more than 3.5 x 8 meters, is of a rare high quality. It features three figures, multicoloured geometric patterns and a long inscription in Greek'. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
An Israel Antiquities Authority worker looks at a mosaic floor decorated with figures, which archaeologists say is 1,800 years old and was unearthed during an excavation in Caesarea, Israel February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Nir Elias
Israeli archaeology Professor Uzi Ad from the Israeli Antiquity Authority explains to journalists the discovery of a rare Roman mosaic from the 2nd3rd centuries at the Israeli Caesarea National Park on February 8, 2018. The mosaic was uncovered during an archaeological excavation that is part of the largest conservation and reconstruction project ever undertaken in Israel with an investment of over 28 million US dollars contributed by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation and the Caesarea Development Corporation. According to Dr. Peter Gendelman and Dr. Uzi Ad, directors of the excavation for the IAA: This colourful mosaic, measuring more than 3.5 x 8 meters, is of a rare high quality. It features three figures, multicoloured geometric patterns and a long inscription in Greek'. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers from the Israeli Antiquity Authority (IAA) clean a rare Roman mosaic from the 2nd3rd centuries at the Israeli Caesarea National Park on February 8, 2018. The mosaic was uncovered during an archaeological excavation that is part of the largest conservation and reconstruction project ever undertaken in Israel with an investment of over 28 million US dollars contributed by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation and the Caesarea Development Corporation. According to Dr. Peter Gendelman and Dr. Uzi Ad, directors of the excavation for the IAA: This colourful mosaic, measuring more than 3.5 x 8 meters, is of a rare high quality. It features three figures, multicoloured geometric patterns and a long inscription in Greek'. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers from the Israeli Antiquity Authority (IAA) clean a rare Roman mosaic from the 2nd3rd centuries at the Israeli Caesarea National Park on February 8, 2018. The mosaic was uncovered during an archaeological excavation that is part of the largest conservation and reconstruction project ever undertaken in Israel with an investment of over 28 million US dollars contributed by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation and the Caesarea Development Corporation. According to Dr. Peter Gendelman and Dr. Uzi Ad, directors of the excavation for the IAA: This colourful mosaic, measuring more than 3.5 x 8 meters, is of a rare high quality. It features three figures, multicoloured geometric patterns and a long inscription in Greek'. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers from the Israeli Antiquity Authority (IAA) clean a rare Roman mosaic from the 2nd3rd centuries at the Israeli Caesarea National Park on February 8, 2018. The mosaic was uncovered during an archaeological excavation that is part of the largest conservation and reconstruction project ever undertaken in Israel with an investment of over 28 million US dollars contributed by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation and the Caesarea Development Corporation. According to Dr. Peter Gendelman and Dr. Uzi Ad, directors of the excavation for the IAA: This colourful mosaic, measuring more than 3.5 x 8 meters, is of a rare high quality. It features three figures, multicoloured geometric patterns and a long inscription in Greek'. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers from the Israeli Antiquity Authority (IAA) clean a rare Roman mosaic from the 2nd3rd centuries at the Israeli Caesarea National Park on February 8, 2018. The mosaic was uncovered during an archaeological excavation that is part of the largest conservation and reconstruction project ever undertaken in Israel with an investment of over 28 million US dollars contributed by the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation and the Caesarea Development Corporation. According to Dr. Peter Gendelman and Dr. Uzi Ad, directors of the excavation for the IAA: This colourful mosaic, measuring more than 3.5 x 8 meters, is of a rare high quality. It features three figures, multicoloured geometric patterns and a long inscription in Greek'. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A worker from the Israeli Antiquity Authority (IAA) cleans a rare Roman mosaic from the 2nd3rd centuries at the Israeli Caesarea National Park on February 8, 2018. According to Dr. Peter Gendelman and Dr. Uzi Ad, directors of the excavation for the IAA: This colourful mosaic, measuring more than 3.5 x 8 meters, is of a rare high quality. It features three figures, multicoloured geometric patterns and a long inscription in Greek. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers from the Israeli Antiquity Authority (IAA) clean a rare Roman mosaic from the 2nd3rd centuries at the Israeli Caesarea National Park on February 8, 2018. According to Dr. Peter Gendelman and Dr. Uzi Ad, directors of the excavation for the IAA: This colourful mosaic, measuring more than 3.5 x 8 meters, is of a rare high quality. It features three figures, multicoloured geometric patterns and a long inscription in Greek. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers from the Israeli Antiquity Authority (IAA) clean a rare Roman mosaic from the 2nd3rd centuries at the Israeli Caesarea National Park on February 8, 2018. According to Dr. Peter Gendelman and Dr. Uzi Ad, directors of the excavation for the IAA: This colourful mosaic, measuring more than 3.5 x 8 meters, is of a rare high quality. It features three figures, multicoloured geometric patterns and a long inscription in Greek. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
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Caesarea was a vibrant Roman metropolis built in honor of Emperor Augustus Caesar by King Herod, who ruled Judea from 37 BC until his death in 4 BC.

The excavated portion of the mosaic, which the antiquities authority said was 3.5 meters by 8 meters in size, depicts three toga-clad men, as well as geometric patterns and an inscription in Greek, which is damaged.

If the mosaic came from a mansion, the figures could have been the owners, or if it was a public building, they may have been the mosaic's donors or members of the city council, Gendelman said.

The mosaic was of a high artistic standard, with about 12,000 stones per square meter, the antiquities authority said.

Israel is undertaking the largest conservation and reconstruction project in the country in the Caesarea National Park, the antiquities team said. The project aims to reconstruct a Crusaders-era bridge.

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Discoveries made by the Israel Antiquities Authority
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Discoveries made by the Israel Antiquities Authority
Archaeologists from the Israeli Antiquities Authority, inspect a cave near a recently discoveread Edomean era structre, at ancient ruins of Amuda, near the town of Beit Guvrin on November 30, 2017. A 2200-year-old (Hellenistic period) structure, possibly an Edomean palace or temple, was uncovered during in archaeological excavations at the site of Horvat Amuda, situated at the heart of a military training area in the Lachish region. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, excavator of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), holds a stamped piece of clay from the First Jewish Temple period which belonged to the 'governor of the city' of Jerusalem, the most prominent local position to be held in Jerusalem of 2700 years ago, and which were excavated at the northwestern part of the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem's Old City, on January 1, 2018, at he IAA laboratories in Jerusalem. The extraordinary find is a lump of clay, stamped and pre-fired, measures 13 x 15 mm and is 23 mm thick. The upper part of the sealing depicts two figures facing each other, and the lower part holds an inscription in ancient Hebrew script. / AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Benyamin Storchan, excavations director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, shows a decorated mosaic floor part of the remains of a 1,500-year-old (Byzantine Period) monastery and church, recently discovered in the southern hills of Israeli city of Beit Shemesh, on December 20, 2017. The operations are part of large-scale excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority with the help of over 1,000 teenagers, prior to the expansion of the Ramat Beit Shemesh neighborhood. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
An Israel Antiquities Authority volunteer uncovers a mosaic floor, part of the remains of a 1,500-year-old (Byzantine Period) monastery and church, recently discovered in the southern hills of Israeli city of Beit Shemesh, on December 20, 2017. The operations are part of large-scale excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority with the help of over 1,000 teenagers, prior to the expansion of the Ramat Beit Shemesh neighborhood. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Archaeologists from the Israeli Antiquities Authority, inspect a cave near a recently discoveread Edomean era structre, at ancient ruins of Amuda, near the town of Beit Guvrin on November 30, 2017. A 2200-year-old (Hellenistic period) structure, possibly an Edomean palace or temple, was uncovered during in archaeological excavations at the site of Horvat Amuda, situated at the heart of a military training area in the Lachish region. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Michal Haber, a member of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, displays an Edomean era incense burner adorned with an image of a bull, that was recently discovered at the ancient ruins of Amuda, near the village of Amazya on November 30, 2017. A 2200-year-old (Hellenistic period) structure, possibly an Edomean palace or temple, was uncovered during in archaeological excavations at the site of Horvat Amuda, situated at the heart of a military training area in the Lachish region. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers restore a ceiling of the Western Wall tunnels near the site where Israeli Antiquity Authority recently discovered an ancient roman theatre from the second sanctuary in Jerusalem's Old City on October 16, 2017. Excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority have uncovered large portions of the Western Wall that have been hidden for 1,700 years. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Joe Uziel, an archeologist from the Israeli Antiquity Authority, works on a recently discovered ancient roman theatre from the second sanctuary that was found at the foot of the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem's Old City on October 16, 2017. Excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority have uncovered large portions of the Western Wall that have been hidden for 1,700 years. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Tehillah Lieberman, an archeologist of the Israeli Antiquity Authority, shows journalists a recently discovered ancient roman theatre from the second sanctuary that was found at the foot of the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem's Old City on October 16, 2017. Excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority have uncovered large portions of the Western Wall that have been hidden for 1,700 years. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Archaeologist Annette Landes-Nagar, of Israel's Antiquities Authority, displays ancient coins from the era of the Byzantine Empire (Seventh century), which were found last summer during excavations near the Arab Israeli village of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem, during a press tour of the national treasures storerooms of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Beit Shemesh on March 19 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Joe Uziel, of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), who is the director of an excavation project where evidence of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians has recently been unearthed, speaks at the site in the City of David archeological park near Jerusalem's Old City on July 26, 2017. The structures dating to more than 2,600 years ago have been unearthed after having been covered over by collapsed layers of stone revealing many findings such as charred wood, grape seeds, pottery, fish scales and bones, and unique, rare artifacts including dozens of storage jars which served to store both grain and liquids. / AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
A worker of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Nature and Parks Authority works at the ''stepped street'' in a underground tunnel at the 2,000 year old 'Second Temple Period Street' discovered in the David City located in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, outside the southern part of Jerusalem's Old City, on May 25, 2017. Israel Antiquities Authority and the Nature and Parks Authority are unveiling evidence from 2,000 year ago of the battle of Jerusalem following the destruction of the Second Temple, at the City of David in the Jerusalem Walls National Park. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
A first century Ossuary, bearing an old Hebrew text, is displayed during a press tour at the national treasures storerooms of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Beit Shemesh on March 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
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(Reporting by Rami Amichai; Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London; Editing by Alison Williams)

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