By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A new exhibit opens Sunday at the Penn Museum that tells the story of wealth of the Roman empire more than 17 centuries ago.READ MORE: Disgruntled Bar Patron Opens Fire Into Northeast Philadelphia Bar Killing 21-Year-Old Woman: Police
Titled, Unearthing a Masterpiece: A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel, the new exhibit is an exceptionally large and well-preserved mosaic, depicting birds, fish and ferocious wild animals such as lions, a tiger and a bull.
“The size is about 50 feet by 27 feet,” says Brian Rose, curator-in-charge. “It decorated a large Roman House about 300 AD.”
Rose says it was discovered in Lod in 1996 and excavated in 2009. He says the area, known as Judea, became a colony of the Roman Empire 2000 years ago and was a “sun city” where wealthy Roman military men moved went to retire.
“People had a lot of money in 300 A.D.and there was a lot of aristocratic competition,” says Rose. “So you wanted to make sure that the mosaic that decorated your house was more grandiose than the one that decorated your neighbor’s house.”
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So who would have owned such an elaborate floor decoration? Museum Director Julian Siggers says the images provide some clues.
“Many scholars think that it may have belonged to a trainer of great gladiatorial gain,” says Siggers. “But because it has no humans depicted we’re not sure if it was from a wealthy Roman or a wealthy Jew or Christian. We’re not sure. But it must have been someone of considerable wealth to afford such a masterpiece.”
Mosaics in ancient Rome were not uncommon, but they took considerable effort.
“One would have needed a half a year at least to put a mosaic this elaborate together,” says Rose. “It was a formidable undertaking and because there are so many colors represented, you would have had to import cut stone from a variety of quarries.”
The Exhibit runs through May 12th, and will be the last time the mosaic is showcased in North America. For more information visit penn.museum.MORE NEWS: Arson Suspect Arrested In Connection To Fire, Building Collapse That Killed Philadelphia Fire Lt. Sean Williamson