Sunday, February 3, 2008

Gold and Glass instead of Formica in the Bird Palace

Once upon a time (1400 years ago)in what is now called the Bird Palace in Caesarea in what is now Israel, the gold and opaque glass mosaic panel served as a table.During the course of the excavation, under the direction of Dr. Yosef Porat, the remains of a palace’s rooms were exposed that were paved with mosaics and the glass panel was discovered lying face down on the floor in one of them. The panel was covered by the collapse of the second story that included among other things fragments of mosaic floors, a stone table, pieces of plaster and roof tiles. The panel is dated to the latter part of the Byzantine period (the late sixth century and beginning of the seventh century CE), a date that corresponds with that of the building and the other artifacts that were discovered inside it during the course of the excavation.
A layer of broken ceramic amphorae was arranged neatly along the back side of the panel’s frame so as to elevate it from the middle part of the panel, similar to the edges of stone and marble tables that are characteristic of the period. In light of this the panel is also known as the “gold-glass table”.
The panel is unique in that the glass platelets inlaid in it were made using two techniques: most of the platelets were made by a special technique of ‘gold-glass’; there are platelets that were made of multicolored, opaque glass known as ‘mosaic glass’. The ‘gold-glass’ platelets were made of two layers of glass (the bottom layer four to five millimeters thick and the upper layer less than one millimeter thick) between which is very thin gold foil (so thin it cannot be measured). The ‘gold-glass’ platelets occur in a variety of shapes and sizes: squares, rectangles and triangles. Many of them are decorated with a relief pattern that was made in a mold while the glass was still hot and which stands out from the surface of the platelet.
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