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Israeli archaeologists discover 1,700-year-old footprints

world Updated: Oct 15, 2009 07:54 IST

Israeli archaeologists have found the 1,700-year footprints of people working on a mosaic during the times that the Romans were ruling the region.

The imprints of bare feet and sandals - sized 34, 37, 42 and 44 -were discovered under the Lod Mosaic, one of the largest and best-preserved mosaic floors ever discovered in Israel.

The mosaic floor is believed to be part of a villa that belonged to a wealthy man from the 4th century AD. At the time, what is now Israel and the Palestinian areas was part of the Byzantine, or Eastern Roman Empire.

It was first discovered in 1996 by construction workers widening a street in the now mixed Jewish-Arab town of Lod, just south-east of Tel Aviv. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) was immediately called in, but the site had to be covered again to keep it from eroding.

It took the authorities 13 years to raise the huge sum needed to treat and conserve the mosaic, which depicts mammals, birds, fish, flower species and merchant vessels, and only this summer it was re-excavated.

It is now being removed from the site for treatment in the IAA conservation laboratories, the Antiquities Authority said in a statement sent to journalists Wednesday.

When the archaeologists cleaned the bedding and found the imprints under one piece of the mosaic, "the excitement here was great," said Jacques Neguer, the head of the IAA Conservation Branch.

"It is fascinating to discover a 1,700-year-old personal mark of people who are actually like us, who worked here on the same mosaic. We feel the continuity of generations here."