I don’t do a lot of street photography but I often enjoy going out when I encounter a new city at night, just to get a sense of the place. I collected together a few photographs of Jerusalem at night to share in this post. What is usually known as the Umbrella Sky Project began several years ago in Agueda, Portugal, and has since spread to streets in Turkey, Serbia, Germany, Cambodia and other countries during the month of July. It was first implemented in Israel in 2013, when 600 colorful umbrellas were suspended over Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard to celebrate the arrival of free Wi-Fi across the city. Downtown Jerusalem welcomed summer this particular year with a thousand colorful umbrellas suspended by barely visible string over Yoel Moshe Solomon Street in the historic Nachalat Shiva district just off the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall. It never rains in Israel during the summer months, but the sun is strong enough to cook shakshuka on the pavement. So let’s call these decorative umbrellas “parasols.”
The Madaba Map (also known as the Madaba Mosaic Map) is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George at Madaba, Jordan. The Madaba Map is a map of the Middle East and associated holy places. It contains the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem. While modern maps are labeled as if you stand on the south pole and look north. The Madaba map is labeled from the north looking south. This means that the lettering of the map is upside down to how we would orient the map on paper. It is like looking at a map of the United States 180 degrees (upside down). The Madaba map is not to scale. Jerusalem is greatly enlarged and distances are greatly distorted to what we would expect from a map. But the map was for devotional purposes, not science and geography as we would like it to have been from a modern perspective. Nonetheless the map is extraordinarily precise, including many cities known from other sources.
After a bit of additional travel, I have arrived at the beach in Tel Aviv in the middle of a puzzling dust storm which has enveloped the entire Middle East. The severe dust storm arrived in Israel on Tuesday with Jerusalem recording its worst air pollution levels ever, at 173 times normal levels. In some other parts of the country, air pollution levels were at their worst for 75 years. Israel’s emergency medical service Magen David Adom reported that 340 Israelis received medical treatment as a result of the weather, including those suffering from asthma, respiratory problems, shortness of breath and heart issues. The result here is sweltering high humidity and heat getting up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit with nearly 100% humidity.
This cuneiform map of the Babylonian world is an archeological treasure on a par with the Rosetta Stone and the code of Hammurabi. The Babylonian World Map, also known as Imago Mundi is usually dated to the 6th century BCE and is the one of the oldest known world maps and certainly the most famous. We saw this when we were at the British Museum for the Olympics and I thought I would do some posts on famous ancient maps. An inscription on the Babylonian World Map indicates that it was a copy of a previous map and the locations featured on the map indicate that the original could not have been created earlier than the 9th century BCE. The back of the tablet is covered with cuneiform mainly describing Seven Islands or regions which are depicted in the form of equal triangles rising beyond the circle of the Earthly Ocean.
The Lod mosaic was discovered in Lod (formerly Lydda) Israel during highway construction. A rescue excavation was immediately conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority revealing a series of mosaic floors measuring approximately 50 feet long by 27 feet wide. An excellent website documenting the find can be found at www.lodemosaic.org. The age of the mosaic is 300-400 AD based on pottery fragments found at the site. No one can say for sure what type of building it was used for or whether the owners were Roman, Christian or Jewish.
We saw the mosaic at the Field Museum in Chicago and it is a beauty. The central panel is shown above and it is flanked by two panels. It is so large that it is difficult to photograph but I have included closups to show the amazing workmanship. The large square in the center (shown above) depicts mostly peaceful animals, apart from a lion on top of a deer in what looks like a mutually consensual act rather than an assault, and a gazelle freshly killed by a lion (see below). Miriam Avissar, the archaeologist who discovered the mosaic, thought that the exotic animals might allude to public spectacles in regional amphitheaters, where such creatures could occasionally be seen. Flanking the central panel to the north and south are two smaller, rectangular end panels.
The north panel explores the same theme as the main panel with various creatures. I particularly like the scene of a mother partridge with her chicks (see below).
The south panel is devoted to a single marine scene, complete with two Roman merchant ships.
This is a very cool exhibit and it seems to be traveling around the country since it was previously at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and in San Francisco. After the Field Museum it is scheduled for the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio. It may be exhibited elsewhere after that, if you get a chance, be sure to see it.