BIG STEP: The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg made history when, for the first time during its 250 years in existence, it is exhibiting an archeological discovery from Israel. The museum became the temporary home for a 27-foot-wide by 50-foot-long Roman mosaic floor, dating back to the 4th century. It was uncovered in Lod, Israel, in 1996 when workers began to clear the ground for a new road’s plumbing. Even a workman’s footprint remained among the design of two Roman merchant ships and various birds, fish and animals, including a segment with ferocious wild animals, which were well known to the Romans since they appeared at gladiatorial games, where they were pitted either against each other or against human adversaries. After being lent to major museums in London, Berlin and Paris as well as in many cities in the United States, the mosaic is at The Hermitage, on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center. In welcoming guests to the exhibit’s opening, museum’s director, Mikhail Piotrovsky, spoke about how pleased he was to “begin this relationship with Israel and to have this beautiful piece here.” The mosaic will return home in the spring, where a museum will later be built for it that will include a bridge from which visitors may view the ancient floor.

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