Ancient Discovery in Gaza Raises Questions About Archaeological Protection
By Drew Jackson / Arab America Contributing Writer
A Palestinian farmer recently unearthed a Byzantine-era mosaic in Gaza, in what experts call one of the region’s most important archaeological finds.
The mosaic, depicting several animals and geographic shapes, dates back to between the fifth and seventh centuries CE and has raised questions about the protection of archaeological treasures in one of the most intense combat zones in the Middle East.
The Gaza Strip is historically one of the most important archaeological areas in the world, particularly the Levant, as it served as the gateway between Northern Africa, Egypt, and the East. For 3500 years, Gaza’s history has been shaped by its location on the trade route, making it the epicenter of trade in the ancient world.
Recently, archaeology in the region has become a battleground for political factions as Israel and the Palestinian National Authority has continued to contest the protection of sites and the process of excavations.
The region was long over-looked as other archaeological sites around the world were excavated over the past two centuries until 1995 with the establishment of the Department of Antiquities in Gaza, a branch of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of the Palestinian National Authority. The balance of power has shifted in the past decade as the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has assumed authority over archaeological digs in Israel and areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority since 2014.
The Byzantine Mosaic was unearthed a little over one kilometer from the Israeli wall and is now at the center of the excavation debate between Palestinians, Israeli, and UNESCO. Hamas is planning a major announcement in the coming days surrounding the excavation efforts of the Palestinians.
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