Archaeology

published : 2023-08-21

Looming Controversy Over the Uproot of Ancient Christian Mosaic Near Site of Prophesied Armageddon for Exhibition in the US

Megiddo Mosaic's proposed loan to Washington’s Museum of the Bible provokes outcry; implications of this move set to unravel

A picture of archaeologists carefully examining the ancient Christian Mosaic amid the historical landscape it originates from - portraying the intense scrutiny and debate this issue has stirred; taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

An ancient Christian mosaic, located near the prophesied site of Armageddon, is stirring a controversy among archaeologists, posing a challenging question: Should it be upheaved and loaned to a U.S. museum criticized for previous acquisition practices?

Israeli officials, amid intensifying ties between Israel and U.S. evangelical Christians, are deliberating this very prospect.

The proposed loan to Washington's Museum of the Bible puts a spotlight on Israel's growing reliance on evangelicals for political backing, tourism revenue, and more.

The Megiddo Mosaic originates from what's perceived to be the oldest Christian prayer hall globally, discovered during a 2005 salvage excavation tied to an Israeli prison's planned expansion.

Harbored within a compound circumscribed by a white steel fence topped with barbed wire, it lies at an ancient crossroads just a mile south of Tel Megiddo.

In Christian belief, it is the prophesied site where the final battle between good and evil, Armageddon, is destined to unfold, at the backdrop of the Second Coming.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) is set to decide on the mosaic's relocation after counsel from an advisory team.

An image showing the official exterior of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, illustrating the controversial proposed destination of the mosaic; captured with Nikon D850

The IAA posits that extracting the mosaic from its current location would shield it from imminent construction at the prison site.

Despite having the final say on the loan, Jeffrey Kloha, the Museum of the Bible’s chief curatorial officer, extends a warm welcome to such an emblematic piece of history.

Heated outcry from the academic community surrounds the thought of dislodging the Megiddo Mosaic, further ignited by the idea of its display at the Museum of the Bible.

Doubts loom over the premature extraction of the mosaic before the completion of academic study, and fears of the mosaic potentially losing its historical context to cater to an ideological narrative are expressed.

Despite these criticisms, the Museum of the Bible proudly asserts its commitment to preserving history and is prepared to face cultural heritage issues.

The mosaic, believed to date back to the third century — before the Roman Empire's official conversion to Christianity — bears Greek inscriptions, among them an offering 'To God Jesus Christ.'

The controversial loan, if approved, will affirm ties between Israel and the evangelical-backed museum.

A candid shot of Jeffrey Kloha, the Museum's Chief Curatorial Officer, expressing a warm yet determined look on his face, conveying the tension surrounding the final decision of the artifact's fate; snapped with Sony A7 III

The museum, embroiled in past controversies over illegal ownership of artifacts and forgery allegations, sponsors archaeological digs in Israel and plans to feature IAA archaeologists in a lecture series.

Growing support for Israel among evangelicals, who interpret Israel's establishment as biblically prophesied, facilitates significant contributions and tourism.

Israeli politicians seem to accept this support despite discomfort over certain evangelical beliefs.

Currently, the mosaic lies hidden beneath the Megiddo Prison grounds, but plans to convert the area into a tourist attraction are underway.

Doubts and skepticism surround the prism of removing and relocating the mosaic.

Experts emphasize the loss of context once an artifact is removed from its actual location, the risk of appropriation by a foreign power, and equate the proposed action with colonial extraction of archaeological discoveries.

Despite these concerns, a decision is expected to be made that could significantly impact the mosaic’s future and its historical legacy.