Israel will present to the public for the first time this week an "impressive" mosaic accidentally discovered in what was a wealthy neighbourhood in Roman and Byzantine times, officials said Monday.
The colourful mosaic measuring some 11 by 13 metres (36 by 43 feet) discovered in Lod in central Israel is believed to have been the courtyard pavement of a "magnificent villa," the Israel Antiquities Authority said.
It is the second such mosaic found in the area, following another uncovered in the 1990s that was the floor of the villa's living room 1,700 years ago and has since been exhibited in prestigious museums worldwide.
The authority called the first mosaic "breathtaking" and "among the most beautiful" in Israel. It depicts roaring lions, elephants in battle, giraffes and dolphins.
The recent excavation in 2014 was to prepare for the construction of a visitor centre to house the first mosaic, currently on display at the Palazzo Cini Gallery in Venice, when it returns.
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Scenes in the newly discovered mosaic include hunting and hunted animals, fish, flowers in baskets, vases and birds.
"The quality of the images portrayed in the mosaic indicates a highly developed artistic ability," Amir Gorzalczany, excavation director, said in a statement.
The authority said that numerous fragments of frescoes discovered also "reflect the decoration and the meticulous and luxurious design, which are in the best tradition of the well-born of the period".
It said that "in light of the new discoveries, this part of the villa will also be incorporated in the visitor centre".
Lod was known as Diospolis at the time, and served as a district capital. Today it is located near Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion international airport.