Exotic Animals in Roman Mosaic at the Penn Museum


Mar|Apr 2013 Contents
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MUSIC William Parberry Gr’80 sings on his 40 years at Penn

MUSIC Inauguration features choral work by David Ludwig Gr’09

BOOKS Steven Ujifusa GFA’05 on the United States and its maker

EXHIBIT Installing an ancient mosaic at the Penn Museum



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It took a giant crane to lift each of the six massive wooden boxes from a closed-off block of South Street, hoist them high into the air, and swing them into the third-floor Pepper Gallery of the Penn Museum. But now the contents of those boxes—which comprise one of the world’s largest and best-preserved Roman mosaic floors—are on display through May 12.

The exhibition—Unearthing a Masterpiece: A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel—represents the 300-square-foot mosaic’s final stop in the United States before traveling to the Louvre in Paris. The 1,700-year-old mosaic was discovered in 1996 when workers were constructing a new highway outside Tel Aviv. Archaeologists believe it dates to about 300 CE and belonged to a wealthy Roman citizen living in the Eastern Roman Empire. Since it depicts an elephant, a tiger, a lion, and other animals that frequently appeared in gladiatorial combat, some scholars have hypothesized that the mosaic’s owner may have been connected to the exotic-animal trade.

The mosaic has been installed next to the Israel section on the third floor, thereby creating what Julian Siggers, the Williams Director of the Penn Museum, calls a “lovely juxtaposition” of cultural exchange in the region.

After its world tour is completed, the mosaic will form the centerpiece of a new museum that is being built in Lod. —Matt Fernandez C’14


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Last modified 03/04/13