Summary and Introduction

The Sepphoris Mosaic was discovered in the Dionysus building in the city of Sepphoris, which clearly belonged to an important figure in the city – some scholars suggest that it could be in fact the local governor. The central part of the design depicts the life and rituals of Dionysus who is the Roman God of feasting and fertility. Sepphoris was first excavated by L. Waterman of Michigan University in 1931. In 1983, J. F. Strange of the University of South Florida began a survey of buildings, cisterns, and burial systems. A joint team from Duke University, North Carolina, and The Hebrew University began work in 1985.

The city of Sepphoris is not mentioned in the bible, however it was a major town close to Nazareth. The mansion which it was discovered in, was built of the summit of the hill and the house is very similar to second – fourth century housing, which was heavily influenced by the Hellenistic building traditions. Josephus called Sepphoris “the ornament of all Galilee.” Josephus also included that Sepphoris was the largest city in Galilee and an exceptionally strong fortress at the time of the First Revolt in 66 CE. Some scholars believe that Joseph and Jesus may have helped in the reconstruction of Sepphoris as it is not that far from Nazareth.

The Sepphoris Mosaic

The Sepphoris Mosiac: The Mona Lisa of Galilee

The mosaic was discovered in 1987, and the mosaic that we are specifically looking at is the portrait of a young woman and is often called the Mona Lisa of Galilee. (The reason that it is often called the Mona Lisa is because she seems to have the same quality as the DaVinci painting, the unassuming smile and tired look).

This mosaic has damage to the southern side, but the woman in it has long hair which is adorned by a wreath and her body is finished off by acanthus leaves. The actual mosaic has been preserved reasonably well, however there is some damage to the upper part of her head and we are missing her right shoulder. This damage is often put down to the earthquake which destroyed Sepphoris in 363.

Dangling from her earlobes are earrings which look as though they consist of a golden hook and rings which have a white pendant hanging down from the rings. Significantly her head is slightly turned towards the left, even though her eyes are glancing to the right. This mosaic is actually of great quality; as the artist has used tiny stones in a wide range of colours, and this has been done with a large amount of detail to shading, in comparison to the other pieces that were found in this house.

A map showing Sepphoris

A map showing the location of Sepphoris and the surrounding area

The surrounding Mosaic

Showing the Mona Lisa, and the surrounding Mosaics

Summary and Introduction