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Two-millennium-old floor tile restoration proves challenging

After finding ancient tile fragments, restoration work has begun on the tiles that covered the courtyard of King Herod’s Second Temple in Jerusalem.

Archaeologists searching through tons of earth, which was removed in 1999 from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, found 600 fragments of elaborately decorated tiles that are believed to belong to the courtyard floor of Herod’s Second Temple, which was built 2,000 years ago.

The tiles have geometric patterns and, through finding similarities between them and the opus sectile tile designs used by Herod in other sites, a team was able to restore some of the tiles. Frankie Snyder, head of the tile project, said:

“So far, we have succeeded in restoring seven potential designs of the majestic flooring that decorated the buildings of the Temple Mount. The tile segments were perfectly inlaid such that one could not even insert a sharp blade between them.”

The tiles enable visitors to get an idea of the splendour of the Temple building. The opus sectile tiles were a lot more expensive than the mosaic tile floors used on other buildings of the period and were the first time such tiles were used in Jerusalem.

The tiles were large, each the width of the Roman foot measurement, approximately 29.6 cm.

Today, many people choose large floor tiles because they are considered modern and trendy. Few people who choose large format floor tiles are aware that they are following a 2,000 year old tradition with their solid flooring, and with Cheshire having Roman roots in many parts, it seems particularly apt here.

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