On January 26th, Superior Scaffold was proud to help bring to the East Coast one of the most incredible Roman Mosaics ever unearthed. The challenge to get them inside the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology was something of an engineering marvel taking scaffolding teams, crane operators, art curators, engineers, and scores of people.
But first… A real-life “Cover up”.
In 1996, workmen constructing a new highway in Lod, Israel (near modern-day Tel Aviv), made a shocking discovery: a 1,700 year old Roman mosaic under the surface of the road. At that time, the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted a rescue excavation that revealed a full series of mosaic floors, measuring roughly 50 feet long by 27 feet wide. Conservators provided preliminary treatment of the mosaics, but they were then reburied until funding could be secured for the full scientific excavation and conservation. In 2009, excavators unearthed the Lod Mosaic once again. The mosaics were then separated into panels and rolled away from the earth. Today, they remain in near perfect condition. Three of these panels are on display in Unearthing a Masterpiece.
This piece is very unique because it lacks human figures. It was likely commissioned by a high-standing Roman official for his private home. Alluding to gladiatorial games, the mosaic panels depict scenes of hunting, trading, and marine life.
And because these tiles date back to 300 CE and are some of the most complete, well-preserved, and largest Roman mosaics ever found, everyone involved wanted to keep them that way. So the call went out to Superior Scaffold to help get them into the building. Piece of cake, right? Wrong. Follow the photos below to see just what was involved. Now, we were just one cog in a very important machine. But our piece was of utmost importance.
These tiles were so large that they had to be placed into 7 gigantic wooden crates and shipped to Philadelphia. And on the morning of January 26, 2013 two large box trucks arrived and blocked South Street in front of the Museum.
The biggest challenge on this job, that required weeks of careful planning, was that these crates couldn’t just be waltzed through the loading dock and up to the third floor where they were going to be displayed. They were way too big and heavy to fit.
They had to be hoisted by a 100 foot crane up off of South Street and deposited onto a giant 16’ tall platform that Superior built over the main stairs and Warden Garden Coy pond that straddled two giant sliding wooden doors accessing the grand staircase on the third floor into the Pepper Gallery. Wow, that was a mouthful. But seriously, look at the photos. Superior’s platform allowed the giant crates to be maneuvered directly inside to the display area where curators could uncrate the masterpiece and put it together for display.
Sitting on top of the system scaffold, Superior used 9’ aluminum stringers crossed with solid plank and then topped with plywood.
Then entire unloading process took approximately 6 hours. Of course, our part started long before the trucks arrived and lasted well after the crates were unpacked.
Here is a sort of chronological assembly, if you will (from Superior Scaffold’s POV)
In the end, the Museum safely unloaded, unpacked, and assembled the Mosiac in time for their ribbon cutting ceremony on February 10, 2013 to start the exhibit (Unearthing a Masterpiece: A Roman Mosiac from LOD, Israel) which runs for a limited time.
Estimator Pat McAndrew not only oversaw the installation but also attended the opening where he took these photos of the famous Mosaic.
Superior will be back out assembling the same scaffolding in May when the exhibit is packed up again and shipped to the Louvre in Paris. After a short time there, it will make the trip to Israel and it’s final resting place in a specially built museum. So see it while you can
And a shout out to Bob Thurlow in charge of Traveling Exhibits at Penn Museum for some of the great photos of the crates going in.
If you would like more information about the unearthing of the LOD Mosaic click here.