In March 2010, an excavation was conducted at the Weinstein house in Shavé Ziyyon, at the corner of Ha-Dekel and Ha-Vered Streets (License No. G-2/2010; map ref. 20823/76544; Fig. 1), at the request of the homeowner to re-expose and conserve a section of a mosaic located in the courtyard. The excavation, on behalf of the Zinman Institute of Archeology of the University of Haifa, was directed by D. Shalem, with the assistance of M. Aviam and Y. Drey (mosaic conservation, restoration and photograph of the reliquarium). Students from the University of Miami participated in the excavation, on behalf of the Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archeology.
The house was built in 1938 and the mosaic was first discovered when the original owner, Zev Berlinger, was working in the courtyard. The mosaic remained exposed for several years, and afterward, was covered for a long time. The edges of the mosaic were treated in 1998, at which time it was covered over once again (Aviam 2001). During the excavation, the areas adjacent to the mosaic were examined, revealing a wall that turned out to be modern, to the south of the pavement. A bedding was exposed near the section of mosaic but no artifacts were found while examining it that could have aided in determining an accurate date for the mosaic. The area adjacent to the mosaic was scanned with a metal detector, but this too yielded nothing. Pottery sherds ascribed to the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods were retrieved. Apparently, the sherds from the Byzantine period indicate the date of the mosaic, whereas those from the Hellenistic period allude to the presence of earlier ancient remains.
The mosaic bedding consisted of brown soil mixed with stones (10–25 cm; Fig. 2). The soil was covered with a layer of lime mortar and an overlying layer of plaster in which white, gray-blue and red tesserae were set. Most of the tesserae were of limestone; however, ceramic tesserae of a light-colored shade of orange were visible in small sections along the edges. The mosaic (Fig. 3) has an outer frame of gray-blue tesserae one stone wide with a guilloche pattern (width c. 20 cm) eight centimeters inside the frame. Eight cm further inside, another inner frame forms medallions, each with a central circle divided into four segments, two white and two red. Red and gray-blue geometric patterns are inlaid outside the outer frame, in the white area that is currently fragmented and that apparently extended as far as the walls, which were not preserved. The density of the tesserae is 56 stones per 10 sq cm. Three sections of ancient repairs in the floor were observed, which were carried out using large tesserae, although an attempt was made to copy the original pattern. The density in these sections is 36 stones per 10 sq cm.
Fragments of a decorated limestone reliquarium were discovered south of the mosaic, near the modern wall in the northeastern corner of the excavation (max. length 14 cm, presumed overall length 21 cm, width 13 cm, height 11 cm, wall thickness 1.5 cm; Fig. 4; Aviam and Shalem 2012
). One complete short side (Fig. 5) and half of one of the long sides (Fig. 6) were preserved after restoration. The short side is perforated with a small hole (diam. 1 cm) above which is a cross with two branches extending out on either side and two birds facing each other on either side of the perforation. The decoration on the long side consists of a large cross within a rhombus. The object is rather small and bears decoration, from what can be gleaned from both the preserved sides, and thus, the two walls that did not survive were presumably also decorated. The size of the object, the likelihood that it was decorated on all sides and the hole intended for libations inside it suggest that it is very likely a portable reliquarium.
The mosaic floor and the reliquarium were discovered on a hilltop west of two churches (Fig. 1)—a southern (Prausnitz 1967
) and a northern (Aviam 2001
) church. The section of the mosaic and the reliquarium attest to the presence of an ecclesiastic or monastic complex during the Byzantine period, in addition to the two churches.
Aviam M. 2001. Shavé Z
Aviam M. and Shalem D. 2012. A Decorated Portable Reliquarium from Shave Zion. LA 62:363–366.
Prausnitz M. 1967. Excavations at Shave Ziyyon. Rome.