Interpreting the Lod Mosaics

In 1996, archaeologists discovered an elaborate Roman-era tiled floor in the Israeli city of Lod, and another eight years later. It emerged that both were part of a large villa, excavation of which continued until 2014. Amir Gorzalczany explains the significance of these findings. (Interview by Imelda Barnard.)

[T]he villa had at least four wings; the Lod mosaic served as the living-room floor and this new mosaic, which forms the southern part of the complex, was a “peristyle”—a paved courtyard surrounded by columns and corridors.

It’s a very rich, late Roman work, composed of rectangular concentric frames. Inside are nine medallions, octagonal in shape: five of these depict animals fighting or hunting; two depict fish, showing species from the Mediterranean Sea; and two others reveal birds—doves and partridges—beside objects, including an amphora and a basket of flowers. Based on the ceramic shards found during the excavation, and on numismatic as well as artistic grounds, we have dated it to the 3rd century. This mosaic is the best of the Roman tradition.

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More about: Ancient Rome, Archaeology, Art, History & Ideas, Mosaics

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela