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Biblical Archaeology Review 48:1, Spring 2022

Define Intervention: Opus Sectile

1. A type of wall and floor decoration

2. A ritual of stamping sacred cakes

3. A type of crown worn by Byzantine emperors

4. A Roman dish of egg, leeks, and saffron

Answer: (1)

Opus sectile, which means “cut work” in Latin, is a type of wall and floor decoration with colored materials cut into particular shapes, polished, and inlaid to form a picture or pattern. The shapes are meant to fit into a designed pattern—as opposed to mosaics, which are created by tiny cubes of roughly the same size and shape. Opus sectile became popular in the Roman world during the first century B.C.E., and King Herod the Great used it in many of his buildings (see Proof Positive). Popular materials for this paving technique included stone, such as with the above reconstructed tile floor from Banias, and sometimes even shell and glass.

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