The huge and beautiful Lod mosaic was removed for conservation. Underneath, archaeologists have found multiple footprints left behind by the workers who prepared the bedding for the mosaic together 1700 years ago.
Some of them are of bare feet, some of them shod, and there are a variety of sizes: 34, 37, 42 and 44 European which are men’s sizes 3, 5, 8 1/2 and 10 1/2 in American measurements. (Granted people were smaller then, but size 3? That has to have been a kid, right?)
“Based on the concentration of foot and sandal prints it seems that the group of builders tamped the mortar in place with their feet,” [Jacques Neguer, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority Art Conservation department] said. “The mosaic consists of three parts that different artists built, probably in different periods.”
He said that there were different kinds of art on the mosaic, and that the conservators could see that the hands that affixed the tesserae were different: a trained eye also recognizes that the preparation which was done prior to the work is different.
Neguer says that part of the process of conservation is to clean the bedding after the mosaic has been removed and study how it was put together. Sometimes they find sketches or grid lines the artists scratched into the plaster so they could plan where the tesserae were going.
That’s what happened under the Lod mosaic. They found incised lines under a vine segment (the middle rectangle in the picture on the right) indicating where the tiles were to be laid, and on that same layer they found the group of footprints.
This was a major lucky break on their part because even with the greatest of skilled conservators, sometimes the mosaic can’t be lifted so cleanly off its bedding.
The prints will be removed for conservation as well, and will eventually be displayed in the new facility built to display the mosaic itself.
What a rush for the conservators to literally be able to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors.