Saturday, December 24, 2005

The mosaics from a Synagoue in Roman Hammam Lif

"Tree of Paradise" an exhibition of mosiacs at the Brooklyn Museum; an art review was written about it in yesterday's NYT (see links below).

But first I'd like to add some notes: Naro was the Roman name of Hammam Lif, a coastal Tunisian city. A synagogue was found there by the French with one of the oldest examples of Jewish mosaics, that is 400-600 AD. These artworks are important for many reasons; from the point of view of Islamic art they are important because:
-This is a comparative case where the prohibition of figurative representations in the religious discourse does not implement a total disregard for figurative representation by those who adhere to that religious discourse; moreover figurative representation could even be one of the forms of visualizing such a religious discourse... Islamic art shows similar patterns...
-This is important notably for North Africa including Tunisia: here we have one of the largest collections of mosaics in the world dating mainly from Roman and Byzantin times (roughly I BC to mid VII AD)... The mosaics of Naro are important because they are among those that date from late antiquity (from which we don't have the majority of mosaics) and, therefore, they are so close to the Islamic period, which brings to mind meanwhile the several archeological indications showing the persistence of mosaics even during the Islamic period: the Fatimid palaces at Mahdiya, where I took part in its excavations in the season of 1999, mosaics floor paved some sectors of the palaces area... The highly symbolic language in the mosaics of Naro provide a major example for those in al-Mahdiyya, which are planer but certainly symbolic as well...

Links to the NYT review and the Brooklyn Museum description of the exhibition:

Another review was published in Archaeology with more pictures of Naro mosaics:

Links to websites providing visual examples from the collections of mosaics in Tunisia:


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