The Madaba Mosaics

The Madaba Mosaics
Photo by:
Verity Cridland
, Creative Commons

For those who are really interested in ancient art and history, the Madaba Mosaics in Jordan is simply an irresistible place to visit. The Madaba Mosaic Map is significant because it is the oldest surviving depiction of the Holy Land which includes Jerusalem that dates back to the 6th Century AD. Also in art history, the mosaic map is considered the oldest known floor mosaic of geographic significance. Because of the existence of the Mosaic Map in Madaba, the identification as well as verification of many biblical sites was facilitated.

The scholars who studied the floor mosaic were able to determine the location of the site Askalon. Excavations in 1967 have also proven the accuracy of the depiction of the Cardio Maximus and Nea Church in the map.

Artists who worked on the map remain a mystery and some have suggested that the genius behind the mosaics were probably Christians who were commissioned to make the map during that time. The artwork was originally 21 by 7 meters, but at present, it is only 16 by 5 meters. It includes about 2 million tesserae. The factors that led to the destruction of some parts of the mosaic map are damages caused by fire, moisture and activities on the site by different visitors to the church. The church was used frequently and the people who neglected the mosaic might have added to destruction of some parts.

Thanks to many people and foundations as well as private companies who have donated and contributed for its restoration, the mosaics in Madaba have become well taken care of and its total destruction was hindered. A visit in Jordan will not be complete without seeing the map which will tell you what many parts of the Middle East looked like thousands of years ago. If you are in Jordan or you plan to visit fascinating places, travel back in time and don’t forget to include the Madaba Mosaics in your destination.

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