Natural Wonders: The Lod Mosaic at the Field Museum

December 17, 2011

The Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority are delighted to tell you that on Wednesday, December 7, "Natural Wonders: A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel" opened at the Field Museum in Chicago.  This is the third stop in a multi-city exhibition of this Roman period masterpiece, the largest and one of the most beautiful ancient works of art from Israel.  The Lod Mosaic is on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center. 

A wonderful preview reception hosted by John McCarter, President of the Field Museum, was attended by Field Museum trustees, generous donors to the exhibition, friends from across the country and from Israel, who came especially to Chicago to view the exhibition.  This is the fourth exhibition of material from the IAA in the bustling galleries of the Field Museum, and we look forward to continuing our relations with this marvelous museum. 

As a Museum of Natural History and Anthropology, The Field Museum placed the Lod Mosaic in its historical and environmental context with a creative, educational and engaging interactive presentation highlighting some of the images represented on the mosaic.

Viewing the Mosaic at the Field Museum                                  

As visitors enter The Field Museum's Gary C. Comer Family Gallery, they see the Lod Mosaic at its center. After viewing the spectacular mosaic and reading the text panels, diagrams, and maps, visitors come upon a large multi-touch table providing a specially developed educational, interactive program which is projected on the adjacent wall, allowing them to make their own mosaic and learn about the images in the Lod Mosaic.

The outline of a mosaic floor appears on the multi-touch table, formatted with a border similar to the border in the Lod Mosaic.To the left of the border is a selection of mammals, birds, fish and other objects that can be dragged-and-dropped to create a new mosaic.  Some of the objects, when selected, open an inset window that runs a brief video program featuring The Field Museum scientists.

When an image of a lion is dragged into the center of the mosaic, it opens a video of Dr. Bruce Patterson, who talks about lions in the Middle East. Dr. Patterson studies the systematics and distribution of mammals in Africa and South America and has worked with the Kenya Wildlife Service to study and conserve lions on the ranchlands surrounding Tsavo National Park.

When an image of a bird is selected, another video launches, featuring Dr. John Bates, an ornithologist, who identifies several of the bird species and talks about migration patterns in the Ancient Near East. Dr. Bates studies the genetic structure of tropical birds, using DNA sequences and traditional museum specimens, to uncover evolutionary patterns in the most species-rich regions of the world, including Africa, Madagascar, and South America.

Moving one of the ships into the design brings up Dr. Bill Parkinson, an archaeologist, who tells viewers about shipping trade goods across the Mediterranean during the Fourth century A.D. Dr. Parkinson's research focuses on the origins and development of early village societies, specifically in southeastern Europe. He is particularly interested in how some human societies become more economically and politically complex over time.

Choosing one of the fish from the mosaic floor presents Dr. Leo Smith, an ichthyologist, giving scientific insights on fish. Dr. Smith's research explores large-scale evolutionary phenomena in fish ranging from the origin and potential pharmaceutical benefits of fish venoms to the speciation and conservation of the highly-threatened and unusual fish fauna of Madagascar.

When the visitor’s personal mosaic composition is complete,  a video appears featuring Dr. Jim Phillips, an archaeologist with extensive experience excavating in Israel, who discusses how the Jewish and Roman populations of the Land of Israel began to interact during the Second through Fifth centuries CE, and how the Lod Mosaic might have been a way for a well-to-do Jewish merchant to display his wealth.

As the final step in the interactive display visitors are offered the opportunity to email their mosaic creation to themselves and to friends.  We hope to have an online version of this wonderful program available in the near future on the Lod Mosaic website which we encourage you to visit at:

The Lod Mosaic Exhibition

The Lod Mosaic exhibition highlights the three large panels found in what was probably a large audience room. Within the central panel-which measures 13 feet square-is a series of smaller squares and triangles depicting various birds, fish, and animals that surround a larger octagonal scene with ferocious wild animals-a lion and lioness, an elephant, a giraffe, a rhinoceros, a tiger, and a bull. Such animals were well known to the Romans since they appeared at gladiatorial games, where they were pitted either against each other or against human adversaries. The mosaic may therefore represent the largesse that the owner had conferred by staging games with wild animal hunts. Flanking the central panel to the north and south are two smaller, rectangular end panels. The north panel explores the same theme as the main panel with various creatures; the south panel is devoted to a single marine scene, complete with two Roman merchant ships. A striking feature of all the mosaics is that none of them contains any human figures.

The Lod Mosaic will be on display at The Field Museum until April 22nd, 2012. After its presentation at The Field, the Lod Mosaic will be exhibited at the Columbus Museum of Art beginning May 18th, 2012, and will then travel to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology. These exhibitions are an extraordinary opportunity to share with the American public the most spectacular objects discovered in Israel, and educate the public about the importance and urgency of the archaeological work conducted by the IAA.

In New York: Diane Carol Brandt, with additional support from Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman and The David Berg Foundation.
In San Francisco: The Selz Foundation, the Koret Foundation, Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund, Saul A. Fox, and American Express. Alexander M. & June L. Maisin Supporting Foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund, and the Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation.
In Chicago: Wendy and James Abrams, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, Peter Bensinger and Peter Bensinger, Jr.,The Robert Thomas Bobins Foundation, Jackie and John Bucksbaum,Josh and Julie Chernoff,The Crown and Kunkler Family, Keith and Rodney Goldstein,Richard and Mary L. Gray, Janet and Bob Helman, Doris B. Holleb, Margot and Josef Lakonishok,Liz and Eric Lefkofsky, Amy and Don Lubin, Susan and Lew Manilow, Hugo and Lois Melvoin,Polk Bros. Foundation,Tom and Margot Pritzker, Claire and Gordon Prussian,Cynthia Stone Raskin, Mr. James H. Stone, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Wanger, Sarita Warshawsky.

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