A mosaic floor referred to as the ‘Bird Mosaic’ (14.5 x 16m) was uncovered in 1955 under the direction of S. Yeivin on a hilltop, c. 500 m outside the city wall of Byzantine Caesarea. The floor was revealed a second time in 2004 in order to implement conservation measures and maintenance. In 2005 a limited excavation was conducted west and south of the ‘Bird Mosaic’ so as to ascertain other details regarding the plan of the building. At the time Yeivin suggested the ‘Bird Mosaic’ belonged to an open church inside the municipal cemetery; other scholars were of the opinion that these are the remains of a villa dating to the Byzantine period.
During the excavation in 2005 it was determined that the ‘Bird Mosaic’ was a large open courtyard, with a portico along the western and southern sides, in very large architectural complex (more than 40 x 62 m), only one-fifth of which was excavated. To the north, south, east and in the remaining the part to the west of the open courtyard there are rooms and courtyards paved with mosaics.
In 2005 an area with a white mosaic and a large water cistern that were not discerned in 1955 was exposed below the damaged portions of the ‘Bird Mosaic’
In the 2005 excavation, mosaic floors that had collapsed from an upper story were found and traces of fire were noted on the mosaic pavements on the ground floor. The pottery vessels recovered date to the latter part of the Byzantine period (the second half of the 6th century-first half of the 7th century CE).
An especially rare find that was recovered is a glass opus sectile panel. Some of the glass platelets in the panel are gilded and some are colored; they probably formed the top of a wooden ‘sigma’-shaped table (97 x 104 cm).
It was ascertained from the plan of the parts that were exposed in the excavations of 1955 and 2005 that the villa complex covers an area c. 3,000 sq. m. To date no installations for processing agricultural produce were discovered in the complex and we can therefore define it as a villa sub-urbana. The area shown to have mosaic floors on the ground floor of the palace extends across more than 1,500 sq m of rooms and courtyards, and that does not include the area on the upper story of the villa. The complex was probably destroyed in a raid that occurred prior to the Muslim siege of Caesarea in 640 CE.
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