late 400s-early 500s
Marble and stone tesserae
Overall: 142.9 x 107.3 x 5.7 cm (56 1/4 x 42 1/4 x 2 1/4 in.); Mounted: 142.9 x 107.3 x 7 cm (56 1/4 x 42 1/4 x 2 3/4 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1969.115
In the Syrian village where this mosaic was created, few people could read and even fewer had access to books. The images within the church educated the community, leading 5th-century Pope Gregory the Great to describe religious images as "books for the illiterate."
This mosaic panel representing the Fall of Adam and Eve once formed part of a much larger mosaic decorating the floor of an early Byzantine church in northern Syria. Here, Adam and Eve are portrayed sharing the forbidden fruit while covering themselves with large leaves. At the top of the panel, a Greek inscription reads, "And they ate and they were made naked," recalling the biblical text (Gen. 3:7) and highlighting the two moments in the biblical narrative of the Fall that are depicted here.
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