Ḥorvat Beer Shem'a; Birsama - St. Stephanos - Nave

Location in the architectural complex: 
Mosaic floor
Illustrative material: 
The central carpet (5 x 9 m) The design consists of "populated scrolls of fifty five medallions arranged in eleven rows. The medallions are formed from a vine growing out of an amphora. The medallions contain animals, human figures and objects in between which reside grape clusters, grape leaves and birds. Some of the medallions contain grape clusters. The figures depicted are full of movement and many extend beyond their medallions.There is great attention to detail in the rich array of scenes, the clothing is well rendered and some the iconography is unique. For example, one medallion depicts a seated woman breastfeeding. The first row (looking from east from the entrance) contains vase at its center, flanked by a pair of medallions, each containing a lion. The second row medallion contains a a depiction of a woman breastfeeding flanked by a goat and pheasant. The third row depicts a fruit basket with a guineafowl on either side, a lioness on the far left and a a leopardess on the far right. The fourth row depicts a man playing a flute flanked by two bulls. The fifth row depicts a dovecote and pair of doves flanked by a dog chasing a vixen on the right a a dog chasing a rabbit to its left. The sixth row depicts a grape basket and a man leading a loaded donkey on the left and a camel to the right. The seventh row depicts a bird in a cage flanked by bears and ducks. Th eighth row depicts a man leaning on a club that is flanked on the left a a panther with a deer and a a wolf with an ibex to the right. The ninth row depicts a dog and a crane that are flanked by a man leading an elephant to the left and a man leading a giraffe to the right. The tenth row depicts a man under an inscription: " Victor carries a tray", perhaps referring to Victor the storekeeper of the church. The man is flanked by a mare and a horse and another destroyed medallion. The last eleventh row depicts a fruit bowl flanked by two peacocks. The carpet is framed by a double border in a lotus flower pattern on either side of a plaited guilloche.
Iconographical motives: 
grape vine
grapes cluster
fruit basket
The mosaic is dated to the mid 6th century (Gazit and Lender 1993: 275-76). A design consisting of "populated scrolls" is very common in 6th century byzantine churches.