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Middle East's largest ancient mosaic unveiled in Palestine Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Middle East's largest ancient mosaic unveiled in Palestine

The floor covers about 820 square metres [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 October, 2016

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Journalists have been allowed a rare glimpse of one of the Middle East's finest mosaic floors near the occupied West Bank city of Jericho.
Palestinians on Thursday gave a rare glimpse of one of the Middle East's finest mosaic floors near the occupied West Bank city of Jericho.

Dating from the eighth century AD, the floor covers about 820 square metres at the desert castle known as Hisham's Palace, an important Islamic antiquities site just north of the ancient city.

It is made up of 38 panels bearing delicate floral and geometric designs and is one of the oldest and largest in the region to have never been moved, senior Palestinian Authority conservation official Ihab Daoud told AFP.

The floor was first excavated in 1930 but left largely untouched until the early 21st century, Daoud said. In recent years it has been recovered under layers of canvas to protect it from the elements.

Now work is beginning to make the masterpiece accessible to visitors by the end of 2018, incorporating a viewing walkway and a shelter, with financing from Japan.

On Thursday the mosaic was displayed at the project launch, before being covered again to shield it from the surrounding construction work.

Hisham's Palace was built during the Umayyad dynasty, which lasted from 660 to 750 AD.

Rediscovered in the 19th century, the remarkable site covering about 150 acres comprises a palace, baths and an agricultural estate was explored in detail in the 1930s.

It was then that the mosaic was uncovered beneath the dust, but like the rest of the site it was neglected during years of Jordanian, then Israeli rule, Daoud said.

One stunning part is already on show: Entitled "The Tree of Life" it shows a wild beast attacking gazelles under a fruit tree.

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