• Issue: May 2006
  • Designer: Yitzhak Granot
  • Sheet Size: 65 mm x 75 mm
  • Stamp Size: 40 mm x 51.4 mm
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: offset

The mosaic was discovered at an antiquities site situated on the fringes of the Jezreel Valley, on a hill south of Nahal Kini and Tel Megiddo, inside the Megiddo Prison compound. The site is identified with Kefar 'Othnai, which is mentioned in historical sources about the Land of Israel dating from the 1 to the 4" centuries CE.

In archaeological excavations which were conducted at the beginning of the 20" century, remains of Roman fortifications were exposed on the hilltop above the Jewish settlement; these are probably the remains of a small military fortress that was erected in the early Roman period. The headquarters of the Sixth Roman Legion, the Iron Legion (Ferrata), was garrisoned here in the beginning of the 2" century CE, probably in a field northwest of the hill where the Jewish settlement was located and since then the place has been known as Legio. The Roman military presence at the site continued some 200 years during which the rural settlement absorbed a foreign population that included Samaritans. The settlement grew in size until it became a polls (city) in the latter part of the 3rd beginning of the 4th century CE. The name of the new city was Maximianopolis, and it is mentioned in Christian sources, particularly in the list of church councils that convened in the Byzantine period. Following the Moslem conquest of the Land of Israel the settlement adopted the name Leflun.

In the archaeological excavations that were conducted at the site on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority during 2003-2005, remains of a large settlement were uncovered - buildings, courtyards and alleys - in which there were plastered water cisterns and numerous installations used for storing oil, wine and agricultural produce. Ritual baths (miqveot) and other finds that were discovered there indicate that this was a Jewish settlement. In the western part of the Megiddo Prison compound a large structure was exposed in which there is a mosaic floor of a Christian prayer hall. The mosaic is decorated with geometric patterns, a medallion with fish and three inscriptions in ancient Greek: one inscription commemorates an officer in the Roman army who contributed toward the construction of the mosaic (depicted on the edge of the souvenir sheet); a second inscription honors the memory of four women and a third inscription mentions a woman who donated a table (altar) as a memorial to Jesus Christ. The fish that adorn the floor of the mosaic became a symbol in Early Christianity and we know that the Christians attributed to the word fish (ichthys in Greek) a combination of letters meaning "Jesus Christ, son of god, savior". The combination of inscriptions on a mosaic floor, of the 3" century prayer hall, is an extraordinarily singular find. It predates the recognition of Christianity as an official religion and therefore is very important to our understanding of Christianity during this period, to the study of the Roman army in the eastern empire, as well as issues pertaining to the presence of a Christian community alongside a mixed Jewish-Samaritan settlement.

The site at Megiddo was exposed during the course of prolonged salvage excavations that were conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority at the request of the Israel Prison Service and the Israel Defense Forces. Some one hundred Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Druze prisoners who are serving their sentences at Megiddo Prison and Tsalmon Prison participated in the excavations as part of a prisoner rehabilitation project.

Yotam Tepper
Israel Antiquities Authority

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Jerusalem 2006 National Stamp Exhibition
Mosaic, 3rd Century, Megiddo (Legio) Souvenir Sheet