1,500-year-old mosaic floor, accidentally discovered in Jerusalem

A 1,500-year-old mosaic floor with a Greek inscription has been uncovered during works to install communications cables in Jerusalem’s Old City – a rare discovery of an ancient relic and an historic document in one. “The inscription was found a little over a meter below street level, its size is a meter- fourteen by eighty centimeters. Its level of preservation is truly amazing considering that there was lot of ground work and infrastructure very nearby,” Excavation Director – Israel Antiquities Authority David Gellman said.


The inscription cites 6th-century Roman emperor Justinian as well as Constantine, who served as abbot of a church founded by Justinian in Jerusalem. Archaeologists believe it will help them to understand Justinian’s building projects in the city. “The uniqueness of this inscription is it mentions Justinian, the emperor of the Byzantine Empire almost 1,500 years ago, the most powerful man of his era. It shows us that he took personal interest in pilgrimage in Jerusalem, it shows us how important Jerusalem was to the entire Christian world at the time and that the person who was the head of the most important church inside Jerusalem had jurisdiction over building hotels and hostels outside the walls also for the use of pilgrims,” Gellman said.


The full inscription reads: “The most pious Roman emperor Flavius Justinian and the most God-loving priest and abbot, Constantine, erected the building in which (this mosaic) sat during the 14th indiction.” Justinian was one of the most important rulers of the Byzantine era. In 543 AD he established the Nea Church in Jerusalem – one of the biggest Christian churches in the eastern Roman Empire and the largest in Jerusalem at the time. Researchers believe that the building of which the mosaic was once part, located beside the Old City’s Damascus Gate, was used as a hostel for Christian pilgrims.