The Schmooze

Is an Ancient Menagerie Pagan or Jewish?

Though it features illustrations of a menagerie of animals that carry Jewish symbolism, an ancient Roman mosaic discovered in Lod, Israel, in 1996, is not a religious work, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the fourth-century artifact is on exhibit for the first time until April 3, 2011.

According to the museum’s press release, “because the mosaic’s imagery has no overt religious content, it cannot be determined whether the owner was a pagan, a Jew, or a Christian.”

But virtually all of the animals depicted in the work — birds, bulls, a deer, a donkey, ducks, an elephant, fish, gazelles, a giraffe, hares, leopards, lions, a sea monster, a snake, peacocks, a rhino and a tiger — carry Jewish symbolism.

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Is an Ancient Menagerie Pagan or Jewish?

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